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Gender Differences in Child Development

Updated on August 6, 2014

Human development is a varied and rich topic. This is because, individuals do have varied experiences with their developments which makes it difficult to understand why and how people grow, change or learn. Development psychology is aimed at understanding the changes that occur to individuals through their entire lifespan. Researchers have evaluated a broad range of influences that play a role a role in child development including genetics, caregivers/parents, culture and experiences.

Children depend upon the care of others for their survival and development. There no baby “on its own” and the baby would always need the care of another person who will also meet his or her needs. In essence, all aspects of a child’s growth and development including the personhood, health, among others depend upon the capacity of the caregiver(s) in perceiving, understanding and responding to the bits of the child for support and assistance (Belsky, 2010). On the other hand, environmental and socio-economic factors on caregivers necessitates an understanding of cultural and social aspects be imperative. The way by which cultural scripts are used by caregivers are also subsequently internalized by the child and influences his or her motivation, perception, social behavior and regulation. Cultural differences are considered as sociocentric/ individualistic and interdependent. The former reinforces autonomy in action, social assertiveness, choice and independence. The latter, on the other hand, is responsible for socializing the child into being responsible to the family and the society at large (Berger, (2010). This paper compares and contrasts the systems and psychoanalytic perspectives of gender differences in early child development.

A comparison of Psychoanalytic and Systems perspective of gender differences in Child development

The Psychoanalytic theory developed by Sigmund Freud in 1935 serves as a theoretical framework for analyzing disorders related to individual’s behavior. According to this theory, the problems of behavior, which children portray, are considered as a manifestation of unresolved conflicts, which in most cases are derived from the early interactions of the child with the caregiver(s). Problems in relation to activity and attention levels are attributed to unconscious (those not known to caregivers), the preconscious (those that are currently unknown, but can be revealed through analysis) and the conscious processes (those already known to parents). Through this theory, Freud recommended play therapy as a process of intervention, with the subsequent therapy for the child’s parents (Freud, 1989).

The second typography in Psychoanalytic perspective consists of the id (that is the desires and drives), the ego (which is the mediator, the self and the id suppressor) and finally the superego (which is the moral force that mandates propriety). Early psychoanalysis was aimed at determining the repressed aspects of an individual’s id and the ways in which repression represents an abnormal behavior in individuals(Hinshaw, 1994, p. 10).

Among the problems with this psychoanalytic theory is that, it bestors blame on the caregiver-child interactions, specifically the mother’s action (Hinshaw, 2004, p. 10). On the other hand, the System perspective of gender differences has shifted this blame from the caregiver model to more transactional, bi-directional and interactional system of childhood gender differences. Additionally, the Psychoanalytic perspective differs from its Systems counterpart in the sense that, Psychoanalytic theory centers around utilization of psychoanalysis in creating sycophantic pawns. Unlike Systems Perspective, Psychoanalytic model seems not to understand the systemic forces that are in extant, nor does it evaluate the territories and utilities that are involved in sustaining them.

However, one key area where the two systems appears to be at par with one another is that, the theories are intended to access suppressed traumas inherent in humans. Both the system and theory Psychoanalytic theories agree that, since an individual’s id is inwards and is therefore, not accessible, psychoanalysis should be aimed at unraveling the manner in which the ego constrains this id. Similar to Psychoanalytic, the systems theory is contended that, analysts and caregivers should strive to unburden their children for an efficient adaptation to their environments. System theory is also at par with Psychoanalytic since it agrees that, the changes that occur in a particular part of an individual, family or society do have an impact on all spheres of child development (Berger, 2010). However, it should be noted that the system theory does not only recognize the role and influence which parents and caregivers have to child development but extends this role to the family, environment and society.

Why System Perspective Appear to be More Valid in Child Development

Briefly, the systems perspective relates that the human development is determined by various environmental factors. It differs from the psychoanalytic perspective, which articulates that caregivers are the core in child development. Since it emphasizes on environment and adaptation, the system theory aligns with the goals of ego psychology when compared with a psychoanalytic perspective. It should be noted that the system perspective has the same roots with the psychoanalytic perspective. However, this theory is based on the concept of autopoiesis: that is, the ability of a system to be influenced by both its environment and autonomous at the same time. For each choice made by, or with a system, a series of choices become availed while obsolete paths are closed (Berger, 2010).

According to Luhmann (1995), conditioning serves a key role within the functions of the systematic theories. Systems are regulated by habit and internal functions. Since the environments and systems are influencing human development, it becomes impossible to achieve self- determination in full. Moreover, environmental adaptation by an individual is a systemic response. Therefore, a system is not able to free itself from its influences in its entirety, considering that the differences perform a guiding role.

This theory seems to be the most ideal since it tries to assist individuals in understanding the reason people act in different ways when they are in different contexts. It also explains how transitions and shifts affect the lifespan of an individual. The theory also indicates how the sociohistorical, as well as cultural contexts affect the personality of a person.

For example, it is clear that children would behave differently when they are with their families, at school or with their colleagues. Another life example is on how divorce, a main life transition, affects not only the behavior of a child, but also the relationship of the couple. Many a times, we see children’s behavior changing after separation of his parents and the indiscipline nature of many children with single parents. It is also clear that a child in divorced families develops psychologically problems, especially from the first year of the divorce.


References

Belsky, J. (2010), Early human experience: a family perspective.

Developmental Psychology , 17(1), 3–23

Berger, K. S. (2010) Invitation to the life span. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

ISBN-13: 978-0-716-75466-4.Freud, S (1989), The Freud Reader, New York: W.W. Norton & Company

Hinshaw, C.H (2004), Psychoanalytic theory in Human Development, American Philosophical Society. Corwin Hinshaw Papers, 1925-1999

Luhmann, N (1995), Social Systems, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

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