The development of sex-congruent preference in infancy : a longitudinal study
Gender schematic processing theory suggests that children will use gender knowledge about themselves and others to make 'like me' judgements about others. They will use the behaviour of 'like me' others to create appropriate 'own-sex' schemas which will guide their behaviour. The research presented here examines this main premise of gender schematic processing theory. Because gender schematic processing posits a unitary source for the development of sex-typed behaviour i.e. the development of gender cognitions, the trajectory of development is presumed to be the same for boys and girls. This assumption is also examined in this thesis. The sex-typed preference of sixty infants at 3, 9, and 18 months was studied using measures of duration of attention to simultaneously-presented male/female pictures of peers, toys, and play activities. Self-recognition (thought to be an early manifestation of self-concept) was measured by observing mirror behaviour (rouge test) and through monitoring the infants' preferential looking to their own image paired with that of a same-age, same-sex peer. The infants' gender labelling ability was assessed at eighteen months, and demographic information was collected at each session. The infants showed self-recognition on both measures at eighteen months, but their poor performance at the gender labelling task suggested that their formal understanding of gender identity had not yet developed. The infants as a group did not show sex-typed preferences for attending to peers, or play activities, although same-sex preference was found for male infants in both areas. Despite an apparent lack of gender- related cohnitions, there was a significant sex-congruent preference for toys when the group of infants was tested at eighteen months. The trajectory of development of this sex-typed behaviour was different for male and female infants suggesting that the gender schematic processing model is not adequate in its present form to predict the ontogeny of sex-typed behaviour.