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Kohlberg Redux: Gender Concept Formation and Cognitive Processes in Preschool Children
by Tara M. Coddington and Todd Wiebers* - Henderson State University
Kohlberg (1966) states that children achieve gender constancy (GC) around the age of 6 or 7, along with Piagetian conservation skills, and prior to overall gender stereotype knowledge (GSK). In a previous study exploring gender stereotypes in preschool children, we encountered responses reminiscent of GC understanding. This research in conjunction with inconclusive findings in the literature prompted a reexamination of Kohlberg's theory. Using established methodology, fifty 3.5- to 5.5-year-old children completed 3 developmental tasks: a gender constancy interview, a Piagetian conservation task, and a gender stereotype attribution measure. We found no effects of age or sex for each individual task; therefore, we compared scores between tasks according to the child's level of GC understanding: complete (n = 15) or incomplete (n = 35). Results indicate that children develop GC understanding concurrently with GSK, and significantly before mastering conservation skills. Between levels, there was no significant difference between conservation scores or GSK scores, and within levels, the difference between GC scores and GSK scores was nonsignificant. Children may be developing gender concepts at an earlier age because of changes in family dynamics.