A study into the flexibility of reasoning about gender norms in young children
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This study set out to undertake research into young children’s flexibility of reasoning about gender norms. A literature review was conducted in order to critically evaluate the literature and research surrounding the topic and through this six key areas of reasoning were identified. After devising an appropriate methodology, a sample of four, six and eight year olds were interviewed in focus groups, using two series of questions that specifically correlated with the six key areas of reasoning. The majority of participants, across all age ranges, displayed a sense of flexibility in their reasoning of gender norms. However, there were distinct differences between each age range’s responses as well as between the two series of questions. Four year olds were least likely to make allowances for norm violation and therefore displayed a stronger sense of rigidity in their reasoning of gender norms; nevertheless, findings did demonstrate an indication of a developing flexibility at this young age of four. The six year olds did demonstrate a stronger sense of flexibility; however there were significant decreases in this flexibility in particular areas of reasoning that would require further research. The strongest sense of flexibility was found in the responses of the eight year olds who, across all areas of reasoning, judged gender norms to be flexible in relation to preference and choice. The research undertaken proved successful in returning results and clearly demonstrated children’s flexibility of gender norms in relation to each area of reasoning and at three different age ranges. However, the research also highlighted the need for further research to be conducted in relation to the development of gender constancy in young children and in turn their flexibility of reasoning of gender norms, with a specific focus on the cultural and social factors that may have an impact on this.
BA (Hons) Education Studies and Early Childhood Studies
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