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 ld. 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 encouraged and attract attentions. This will encourage him to play in this way more. But if he gets ignored while playing with a doll he might lose interest. Therefore, this will reinforce his masculine behaviour and his un-masculine behaviour will be discouraged.
Thus children can learn gender appropriate behaviour through rewards and punishments by approval and disapproval of some sort of play. In many cultures boys are encouraged to act considered displaying male character and girls vice versa thus this is developed through the toys given to them. For example, construction and building toys for boys which will enable them to imitate their father’s behaviour and dolls, cleaning and cooking toys for girls will also enable them to imitate their mother’s behaviour. According to Video 1, Band 5 Karen’s bedroom was all pink and full of dolls and pink flowers.
While Brian’s bedroom was painted blue and had many action hero toys. Karen enjoys combing dolls’ hair and drawing. However, Brian enjoys playing with cars and guns. As shown here Brian and Karen both tend to have a different experience and a different ways of thinking. Thus, the social constructionist approach does not approve of gender as the product of nature or nurture but as a product of discourses. Therefore, in some cultures the different gender treatment is very clear where boys can get choices and have more freedom than girls such as force marriage in certain countries.
Thus, the expectation from girls and boys from the same age is different and therefore, their experiences of childhood are very different from each other. For example, Moni is a Bangladesh girl who was forced to get married but she is fighting to end the marriage. According to Moni “in our country boys of my age are never forced into marriage but girls of my age are forced into marriage. ” (cited in video 1 band 6). Thus, the traditional discourse has a placed Moni in a situation where she had to confirm her parents’ wishes and follow the traditional role.
However, in their traditions boys and girls has a totally different experience because only boys are allowed to drive whereas girls cannot do so. Also Girls must fetch the water for their family everyday about five to six time but boys do not fetch the water because in their tradition it is the girls’ job. Thus in Bangladesh the traditional discourser shapes the children’s experience according to their gender. Also, in Britain in the last century boys and girls had a totally different experience because boys were responsible to become the wage earner for their families when they grow up.
But the girls were expected to get married and become mothers. They were expected to stay at home and bring up children. However, these expectations has significantly changed at the beginning of the twenty first century thus, the gender division still remain in practice. Nowadays, in Britain girls and boys are given an equal education opportunity in their childhood. Thus, studies shows that girls are achieving better than boys in their academic performance during their childhood. But their opportunities in the adulthood are still heavily curtailed by their gender.
According to the Guardian 2001 “Girls beat boys but end up with less pay” (cited in Woodhead, 2003, p 209) Indeed, statistics shows that girls get more GCSE & A Levels and more girls go to university than boys. However, according to statistics when determining the boys’ educational level, their background, ethnic and social class must be taken into account, as boys from India ethnic do better in GCSE than Bangladesh boys. So when analysing the under achievements in education other factor must be taken into account.
In many countries the girls are seen through the traditional discourser who views girls as not in need for a formal education. This view that girl’s natural role is to become a wife and a mother. Therefore, girls tend to have a fewer education opportunity than boys. However, this has s few effects on the girls as studies showed that the educated woman is less likely to die during child birth. And the children will be less likely to die during infancy. Consequently, the social constructionist approach deconstructs the difference between boys and girls.
Rather than assuming an opposed to separation between masculinity and femininity. It looks at the ways in which masculinity and femininity are done . i. e. the complex relationships in gender. However, the scientific approach differentiated between man and masculinity as they see man as a biological side but masculinity as a cultural idea which is gained depending on the society or culture in which the children grow up in. Thus masculinity behaviours differ from one society to another. (As cited in audio 2 band 4) In conclude, gender differ in different perspectives.
The social constructionists consider that different discourses position gender in different ways. They view gender as a social construction which downplay the difference between boys and girls and see them as a flexible and open to change. Whereas, the other perspectives looks at nurture as the main influence on gender as children learn gender appropriate behaviour by modelling themselves on others for instance girls’ model themselves on women and boys on men. Thus gender appropriate behaviours are also learned through rewards and punishments. However, there is a considerable variation in gender roles between cultures.