Social Learning Theory

By definition the term Social learning theory is an approach that emphasizes on the role of modeling otherwise known as imitation or observational learning, in the development of behavior (Matlin, 85). The behavior in which children learn is typically gender-related meaning that they will act based on their gender for example, girls will learn how to act in a feminine way and boys will learn how to act in a masculine way. The way children learn how to act gender appropriate is through their parents, peers, media, and finally school. The first factor in the Social leaning theory is the child’s parents, their first teachers.

Even though parents may not be consciously aware of it, they tend to teach their daughters and sons differently when it comes to gender characteristics. For one, take the activities that children tend to take part of whether it varies from chores to the toys they play with, parents will encourage the appropriate gender behavior. When it comes to chores a female will more likely to have to do more of domestic chores such as cleaning the living room and the bathroom while on the other hand a male will more likely have to the heavy duty chores such as taking out the trash and repair items that are broken.

Once again parents encourage children to participate in the activity that is “appropriate” by using positive and negative reinforcement, they discourage the activities that they believe will be inappropriate based on the child’s gender and encourage those they believe to be appropriate. The book mentions a study by Campenni done in 1999 that states that parents are more scared of their male child becoming sissies then their female child becoming a tom boy. Another way parents influences gender-type activities is through the conversations in which they have with their children.

The book states a study done by Fivush and Buckner in 2000 showed that 21% of mothers will discuss anger with their sons in a conversation that will last a half an hour where as 0% of mothers will discuss anger with their daughters but, they will discuss fear and sadness with them (Matlin, 90) Even though some parents prefer to talk about aggression to their daughter some boys might learn how to be aggressive through their father by imitating them which again is what the Social learning theory is about. Peers are a big factor in the Social Learning theory in which a child will learn how to behave in a gender type of way.

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During the time a child begins school he or she will fall into their “Peer Group” in which will be the group of children that is the age as them. Children tend to encourage gender typing by rejecting the child that is acting in an “inappropriate” way. Young children to fall into two groups: boys and girls, and with the separation of genders they treat each other differently. First, if a female child comes to school with baggy jeans and baseball cap on her peers will reject by either not playing with her or tease her for being different.

Once Again, the book states that in 2003 Judith Blakemore asked children from the age 3 to 11 if they would be friends with someone who clearly violated traditional stereotypes. The results shown that children particularly dislike a boy who wears a girl hair style and played with a Barbie doll and will judge girls less harshly for the same violations of traditional stereotypes. Children tend to isolate themselves from the opposite gender and associate with the same gender. When boys participate in gender segregation they tend to develop a feeling of entitlement which means since they are male they deserve better and greater things.

Another way aspect that helps shape gender typing is the media. The media can consist of books and televisions. When it comes to children’s picture books, females are clearly depicted as invisible leaving the main characters to be mostly males. As stated by the book Ochman (1996) created a study in which children watched a video tape of an actor reading different books where each story required the main character to solve a problem which would result in the enhancement of the character’s self esteem.

Over a 6 week period a of a group of 7 to 10 years old listened to the stories but, half heard the story where the main character was a male and the other half heard the story where the main character was a female. The results shown that the girls who heard about the female character had a higher increase of self esteem and boys showed the same result when the main character was a male (Matlin, 100). The finally aspect that shapes gender typing is school. Even when it comes to school males are treated more valued then females.

Even the teacher behavior supports that males are treated better than females, where girls are not given equal treatment. The activities of the classroom are typically to appeal to boys rather than females. Females are even less shown in text books. Boys tend to get a positive feedback in the class room since they will be called upon more, praised for their creativity, and included more in class discussion. Take for an example if a question was asked and the a female raised her hand and gave the correct answer and then a male an answer that is “wrong” the male will receive recognition for that answer (Sadker, 97)

There are many aspects that can contribute to the Social learning Theory. The first will be Parents since they are the child’s first teachers and the first people in the child’s life to give them positive and negative reinforcement. The second aspect will be their peers which consist of the children they pay with. Those children will mostly likely encourage appropriate gender behavior more than inappropriate behavior. The media and school are last aspects of the Social learning theory.

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