Gender differences are biologically constructed. We are born either as male or female. Without going any further these statements appear normal and one can take the view that this is the general assumption. What then is sex? Is there a difference between sex and gender? Distinctions between sex and gender have been made by social scientists from the feminist movement of 1970’s, when feminists argued that the traditional views of masculinity and femininity often led to the disempowerment of women. Ann Oakley (1972) in particular, set the stage for the socialization explorations of gender identity (Abbott 2005).
Since this latter part of the 19th century, the common distinction made by sociologists is that sex is derived from the
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The social learning theory suggests that from birth we learn what is considered as “gender-appropriate” behaviours and traits (Marsh et al 2009). “Infants are seen as blank states, waiting to be written on by their environment” (Bilton et al 2002:136). This theory suggests that through interaction with parents, siblings and peers, children learn the characteristics of their gender role - which emotions to display, activities to take part in or avoid, toys to play with, clothing to wear, work and hobbies to pursue amongst others. It is also widely accepted that children copy what they see and try to emulate their peers etc. This is referred to by sociologists as ‘modelling’. The majority of persons will recall that some behaviours are encouraged and accepted whereas if a child emulates something that a parent views as wrong or abnormal this is discouraged. The reactions from parents etc. reinforce the gender characteristics expected of the child (Marsh et al 2009).
A study undertaken in North Carolina of pre school children (Robinson and Morris 1986 cited in Bilton et al 2002) proposes that the social learning theory is an incomplete explanation that we learn all ‘gender-appropriate’ behaviours. In this study, children were themselves selecting ‘gender-stereotyped’ toys for their Christmas presents. For example dolls were selected by the girls and military toys by the boys. The parents selections for