Discuss the View That Girls and Boys Have a Totally Different Experience of Childhood.

Topics: Gender, Social constructionism, Gender role Pages: 5 (1551 words) Published: March 16, 2013
Discuss the view that girls and boys have a totally different experience of childhood. This assignment will explore the different experiences of childhood boys and girls have. It will look at how their experiences differ. However, as defined by the United Nation the term child means every human below the age of 18 years. Therefore, an experience of 7 years old will be very different from 17 years. Their experiences will differ according to the discourses around them. This can be created by their families or education or in their workplace. Also the culture and the religion can shape the children’s gendered experience. However, there is two main ways of understanding children and gender. The scientific and the social constructionist approach both look at gender from a different perspective.

Gender plays very important roles on perspectives over the centuries. Indeed, the scientific approach looks at sex as biological base of building the children’s gender. They acknowledge gender as product of a nature, which is the biological differences, and also through nurture, which is the social and cultural practice. Piaget and Kohlberg’s believed that children were involved in making sense of their own genders as a key of their social world (cited in Woodhed, 2003, p196). However, the social constructionist approach sees sex and gender as a human meaning-making. They believe that gender produces sex and not vice versa. It also believes that gender creates the argument as sex could not exist without gender. Indeed they argue that gender is something we do but not something we are. Although, the social constructionist argues that the nature/nurture debate is misconceived but it sees gender as a product of discourse. It considers that in different cultures different discourses operate and their importance vary from a culture to another. And these discourses will affect the gendered experience of childhood.

The scientific approach takes into accounts the biological differences in children and its affect on the children’s developments and experiences. Recently, it has been discovered that different parts in the brains develop in a different sequence in girls compared with boys. It showed that girls’ brains reach the inflection point which is halfway in brain development before 11 years old. However, boys do not reach this point until 15 years old. Therefore, studies on language abilities and mental functioning showed a difference between boys and girls in using their brains. The study discovered that on the intelligent test girls scored higher on tests of verbal abilities. However, boys showed a higher average on the mathematical problem solving abilities. In solving problems involving language women seemed to be using both hemispheres but men only use left hemispheres. According to Shaywitz et al 1995 “our data provide clear evidence for a sex difference in the functional organisational of the brain for language” (cited in Woodhead, 2003, P 192). Nevertheless, Barnnon (1998) suggested that the differences in verbal abilities are narrow and only happens in some cases such as spelling. These studies show that biologically boys and girls are different in the ways they think. Therefore this will have an effect on their experiences of childhood which may cause each gender to have a different experience in their life.

The social-cultural theories view gender as a product of nurture. They suggest that gender is learned through the process of socialization in the society and the influence of the culture and the economic practices on children. According to Bandura and Walters (1963) “children acquire their gender by observational learning – observing and modelling the behaviour of others” (cited in Woodhead, 2003, P 194). The behaviourism theory considers that rewarded behaviour tend to be repeated whilst the punished behaviour will be extinguished. For instance, if a two years old boy plays with action toys he will be...
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