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    The Impact of Toys on Gender Identity Development in Children

    For your final task for the course, you will present your Final Project research and recommendations to your colleagues. Sharing your findings can help inform decision making or research and foster social change. Based on your Final Project, prepare a 5- to 6-slide presentation (not including your title or reference page) to present your research and recommended solutions. You may use PowerPoint or Word to create your presentation. You are encouraged to use pictures or graphics when appropriate. You should either record and embed audio of you presenting (no longer than 5 minutes) or provide detailed presenter notes in the notes section of each slide.

    By Day 4

    Post a 5- to 6-slide presentation of your Final Project research and recommendations. Include no more than 5 minutes of audio or text in the notes section of your presentation.

    Resources to assist with assignment

    The Impact of Toys on Gender Identity Development in Children

    Introduction and Explanation of Key Literature

    The first literature resource offers a comprehensive definition of the term gender identity. According to McGeown (2015), gender identity means the way people make choices concerning their identification of gender. In this paper, it will identify the topic of gender identity entails identifying oneself as masculine, feminine, or a mix of both masculine and feminine. Furthermore, McGeown (2015) explores the role that motivation and gender identity influences children’s choices. The literature explores this topic by researching more than two-hundred children. Amongst the factors that the study by McGeown (2015) examine is gender identification of children aged nine years. Furthermore, accompanying choices in book readings were also studied. This study made interesting conclusions. According to McGeown (2015), children at this age have already identified behaviors that are gender-specific. Female children would read neutral books, a trait that has attributed to masculinity.

    This literature is an essential contribution to the topic of discussion in this paper. By demonstrating that children learn to identify with gender-specific behavior, McGeown (2015) shows that childhood environment has a crucial role in gender identity. That means that situations such as homes and schools have an impact on the way children will identify themselves as masculine, feminine, or both.

    Further research tackles the topic of gender identity preferences based on social and personal outcomes in children. Martin et al. (2017) identify the impact of social expectations on gender identity. In this research, over four hundred children in three age groups were studied. The study aimed to determine the parameters for the measurement of gender identity in children.

    While this was the primary intention of the study, it was noted that children would identify with a gender based mainly on familial or societal expectations and stereotype (Martin et al., 2017).

    The research also contributes to the development of the central argument of this topic of study in a somewhat impactful manner. By demonstrating that children will identify with a specific gender based on the outcomes of societal and familial influence (Martin et al., 2017), it means that nurture is very impactful in the child’s gender identity development. About the impact of toys, children are generally assorted with toys which are perceived to be appropriate for their type of gender. Therefore, as children grow up, they already have a perspective of how they identify themselves and the way a specific gender is expected to behave.

    Another set of literature identifies essential theories which explain gender identity development in children. The two primary methods which are used in this paper to explain gender development in children are Kohlberg’s theory and Piaget’s theory. Piaget’s theory remains among the widely accepted theories in psychology today. Piaget’s theory explain that children develop knowledge through the active exploration of the environment around them (Newman & Newman, 2017). Indeed, Newman & Newman (2017) have explored the idea of cognitive development in children through the lenses of both Jean Piaget and Eric Erickson. According to Piaget’s theory, children ages birth through two years develops their knowledge by active manipulation of the environment around them. Piaget called this stage the sensorimotor stage.

    Drawing on the discussions in the literature provided by Newman & Newman (2017), nurture is crucial in the development of behaviors. It is worth noting that a child’s environment in this critical age (from birth to two years), is decorated with toys. The role of these toys, whenever they are those associated with a specific gender, then it is expected that a child will identify with the gender for which the toys are made. This resource enhances the clarity of the interactions between the choice of toys and cognitive development.

    Further, it has been demonstrated, through Kohlberg’s theory, that at a tender age, a child’s moral development is externally controlled (Lind, 2017). In this literature, Lind (2017) proves that conditioning of behaviors has been a significant part of psychology. For instance, practices which are perceived as morally undesirable are discouraged through therapy and education. Ideally, this literature posits that learning through environmental influence is a common strategy used in psychological interventions. Therefore, an environment that is decorated with a specific type of toy is an excellent source of cognition in children. This literature once again proves that behaviors are profoundly influenced by the nurturing factors.

    Finally, and perhaps the most crucial set of literature covers toy preference and selection in children. Furthermore, the role of gender stereotype in the development of childhood identity is explained. In the research by Todd, Barry, and Thommessen (2017), it is demonstrated that toys impact children significantly. The psychology of children is affected in that an idea is created that they must play with a specific type of toys (Todd, Barry, & Thommessen, 2017). These types of toys are generally either masculine or feminine toys. The idea of toy preference in children aged nine to thirty-two months has also been investigated by Todd et al. (2018). According to this literature, boys will focus on mechanic toys which resemble engine-powered machines (Todd et al. 2018). On the other hand, girls will generally focus on play with toys that enhance homecare and nurturing behaviors. This gender preference for toys illustrates the impact that toys have on the development and childhood gender identity.

    The fact that children are raised in environments where specific types of toys are different means that these environments form part of gender-specific behavioral priming factors. Also, stereotypes of behaviors that should be displayed by males and how different they should be from those of girls also play critical roles (Halim et al., 2018). This argument is also advanced by Todd, Barry, and Thommessen (2017) who believe that the social belief that children should grow and adopt specific play behaviors contribute to gender identity. These ideologies are part of the social frameworks where children are raised. For instance, a young child is provided with specific toys with which they are encouraged to play. Moreover, when children are taken to school such as in baby care, the toys are availed according to their perceived gender. These factors are essential primers of gender-specific behaviors as explained through Piaget and Kohlberg’s theories.

    The Main Challenges

    The Need for more Research

    The topic of gender identity had previously received less attention from researchers. Already, the subject of gender identity had not been researched in detail. This effect is seen today in the few literature materials that are available on the topic. Therefore, new research encounters a hurdle when referring to related literature. Notably, the documentation of social experiments by competent social psychologists has been lean.

    However, this observation is being overturned as new research is being conducted to identify the cause of gender identity crises in children and adolescents (Wiesgram, 2016). Research has led psychologists such as the American Psychological Association to classify gender identity crises as one of the mental disorders. According to the American Psychological Association (2013), gender dysphoria is amongst the many psychological disorders classified in the current DSM-5 manual.

    There are also conflicting arguments as to whether the environment plays a vital role in gender identity development in children. Gender dysphoria is debated. However, it is generally agreed that gender dysphoria is a mental health condition in which biological sex identity of individual conflicts with the perception of the person’s gender (American College of Pediatricians, 2017). According to the American College of Pediatricians (2017), the biological sex is already pre-determined before a child is born. Also, it is stated that gender dysphoria is a condition of the mind but not an issue with sexual identity. However, despite the role of hormones in influencing gender dysphoria, environmental factors have been attributed to the disorder. American College of Pediatricians (2017), identify the nurturing of this behavior as unhealthy. However, the main topic of discussion, gender identity development in children remains to be one that eludes controversial findings.

    Exploitation of an Existing Stereotype

    Having gender stereotypes in the society has given toy manufacturers a unique opportunity to exploit this perception through the gender-typed toys. Today, it is easy to discern a masculine-typed toy from a female-typed one from merely observing the differences colors. It is now understood that masculine toys are dull-colored and mechanical or are an imitation of engine-powered machines (Todd, Barry, & Thommessen, 2017). Examples include trains, bicycles, and vehicles, to mention a few. These toys would be used by boys exclusively-except for rare situations where a girl may choose these types of toys, and in which case, they will be assumed to be gender dysphoric possibly. However, girl-typed toys would be made to be brightly colored such as pink-colored toys and those that reflect care such as dolls and utensils.

    The primary challenge that this stereotyping has is exploitation by manufacturers of these toys to influence behaviors in children. Therefore, as research which tries to identify the leading role of the environment on the gender identity of children, this factor has not been considered yet it plays an important role. Therefore, this may create a problem in interpreting results.

    Social Impacts

    The use of toys to teach specific behaviors to children has been a common phenomenon in many societies. Toys are more than just equipment of play. They are used to teach children to identify with their roles in the society. For instance, females are traditionally known to be caring (Todd, Barry, & Thommessen, 2017). As such, girls would be given toys which emphasize the trait of caring in them. Furthermore, girls would be provided with dolls to care for and dress and household toys to teach them household chores (Todd, Barry, & Thommessen, 2017). This social factor is crucial in the development and perception of gender differences by children. Children will then grow up identifying with specific roles. Therefore, in conducting this research, it should be taken into consideration the role that culture plays in the identification and perception of a learning by children.

    Suggested solutions

    Despite the challenges that have been discussed above, there are possible solutions which can be applied. To begin with, the issue of insufficient research is discussed. The most straightforward solution to this challenge would be to call for more research in this area. It has been identified that toys have far-reaching impacts on the development of children (Todd et al, 2018). These toys are simply part of the many factors which form part of the environment of the child. Therefore, if the impact of nurture on gender identity in children is to be explored fully, then toys should form part of the study.

    An additional solution has been noted regarding new research and publications which become available each day. Psychologists have given the topic of gender identity relevance, and as such, more study is being conducted and data made available for reference. However, more insight into the role of nurture is welcome.

    Another challenge noted in the study is the role played by toy manufacturers in influencing toy selection. As stated above that manufacturers are exploiting the existing stereotype of gender to manufacture gender-typed toys (Weisgram, 2016). However, there are options for finding a solution to this factor. On the one hand, toy manufacturers can be treated as part of the environment with which children interact. In this case, the specifications and modeling of toys to align with gender types can be assumed. On the other hand, children can be provided with a wide range of toys. In this case, children can be allowed to choose from a variety of toys which does not reflect any orientation towards a specific gender. That will help children to decide for themselves which toys they can play.

    Finally, the impact of culture on gender identity can also be solved in many possible ways. The first and most difficult would be to advocate for change in cultural perception of gender roles in the society. Given that communities are built upon the framework of their culture, this solution would present a significant challenge in implementing it (Weisgram, 2016). However, education of the mass would help the society to adjust its perception and thus allow children to exercise more freedom in their choice of gender-related activities. One of the changes would be to stop using toys to emphasize specific roles in the society. Second, families and schools can offer gender-neutral environments for children to play on. That would enhance the choice of toys by children. Therefore, identification of specific toys with gender-specific behaviors would be minimized.

    Evaluation of Solutions and Recommendations

    The solutions provided above are assessed for recommendations. The first solution entails advocating for more research. This solution involves creating relevance in the role of environmental factors on the behavioral developments of children. By recognizing that toys form the most impactful part of the environment of children, psychological researchers can be attracted to this topic; the consequence would an increase in research on the role of toys as part of the environment in which a child develops gender identity.

    Furthermore, a solution concerning the stereotyping is suggested. The primary target of change in stereotyping of gender role and subsequent reflection of the same on toys is to avoid influencing the development of a child negatively. An association of certain toys with one type of gender is a common practice in many societies. However, children may not be given a chance to explore the behaviors they wish to portray on their own.

    The final solution that has been discussed is advocating for cultural changes in the perception of the roles of certain genders in the society. Given today’s advocacy to end discrimination of people based on their sexual gender identity and sexual orientation, this solution would be more viable.

    After a careful evaluation of the solutions provided above, this paper recommends the following. The most important answer which will contribute to the advancement of social psychology is to conduct further research on the impact of the environment on children’s gender identity development. Another recommendation is the treatment of toy manufacturers has implications as part of the most relevant factor that influences toy selection. In conclusion, home, and school environments impact the development of gender identity in children.

    References

    American Association of Pediatricians. (2017). Gender Ideology Harms Children.

    American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.

    Halim, M. L. D., Walsh, A. S., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Zosuls, K. M., & Ruble, D. N. (2018). The Roles of Self-Socialization and Parent Socialization in Toddlers’ Gender-Typed Appearance. Archives of sexual behavior, 1-9.

    Lind, G. (2017). The Theory of Moral-Cognitive Development A Socio-Psychological Assessment. In Moral Judgments and Social Education (pp. 25-48). Routledge.

    Martin, C. L., Andrews, N. C., England, D. E., Zosuls, K., & Ruble, D. N. (2017). A dual identity approach for conceptualizing and measuring children’s gender identity. Child development, 88(1), 167-182.

    McGeown, S. P. (2015). Sex or gender identity? Understanding children’s reading choices and motivation. Journal of Research in Reading, 38(1), 35-46.

    Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2017). Development through life: A psychosocial approach. Cengage Learning.

    Todd, B. K., Barry, J. A., & Thommessen, S. A. (2017). Preferences for ‘Gender‐typed ‘Toys in Boys and Girls Aged 9 to 32 Months. Infant and Child Development, 26(3).

    Todd, B. K., Fischer, R. A., Di Costa, S., Roestorf, A., Harbour, K., Hardiman, P., & Barry, J. A. (2018). Sex differences in children’s toy preferences: A systematic review, meta‐regression, and meta‐analysis. Infant and Child Development, 27(2), e2064

    Weisgram, E. S. (2016). The cognitive construction of gender stereotypes: Evidence for the dual pathways model of gender differentiation. Sex Roles, 75(7-8), 301-313.

    The Impact of Toys on Gender Identity Development in Children

    1. Introduction

    I. Explanation of gender identity development

    (a) Definition of key terms

    i. Gender identity

    ii. Child development

    iii. Gender-specific toys

    (b) Psychological theories about gender identity development

    i. Kohlberg’s Theory

    ii. Piaget’s Theory

    II. Background Information

    (a) Toy selection criteria in children

    (b) Gender identity stereotyping by toy manufacturers

    2. Related Research

    I. Child development and sexual identity

    (a) Physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.

    (b) Onset of gender identity and sexual development

    (c) The role of sex stereotype on children’s memory

    II. Impact of Gender-specific toys on gender identity development

    (a) The impact of toy characteristics on gender identity

    (b) The impact of exposure to gender specific toys on the development of gender identity

    3.  Psychological Intervention

    I. The main challenge

    a. The need for more study on the role of toys in influencing gender identity

    b. Toy manufacturers’ exploitation of gender stereotypes.

    c. Social impacts: the use of toys to teach certain behaviors to children.

    II. Suggested solutions

    a. More research into the impact of toys on child development

    b. Provision of a wide range of toys for children to play with.

    c. Advocacy for more neutral play environments

    4. Conclusion

    I. Assessment of recommended solutions

    II. Final recommendations for provision of a range of child toys and neutral play environments.

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