Cognitive theories of early gender development

Carol Martin, Diane N. Ruble, Joel Szkrybalo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

463 Scopus citations


The contribution of cognitive perspectives (cognitive-developmental theory and gender schema theory) to a contemporary understanding of gender development is evaluated. Recent critiques of cognitive approaches are discussed and empirical evidence is presented to counter these critiques. Because of the centrality of early gender development to the cognitive perspective, the latest research is reviewed on how infants and toddlers discriminate the sexes and learn the attributes correlated with sex. The essence of cognitive approaches - emphasis on motivational consequences of gender concepts; the active, self-initiated view of development; and focus on developmental patterns - is highlighted and contrasted with social-cognitive views. The value of cognitive theories to the field is illustrated, and recommendations are made concerning how to construct comprehensive, integrative perspectives of gender development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)903-933
Number of pages31
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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