The social learning perspective for gender socialization argues that children learn how to behave in sex appropriate ways through the rewards and punishments that children receive when they exhibit socially approved sex appropriate behavior and inappropriate behavior and through modeling of the said behavior by significant adults in the child’s life (Franzoi, 2007). This perspective is unique on its own because it emphasizes that gender socialization is a learned behavior, it does not have any psychological basis nor is it caused by any internal drives. Children learn to behave in accordance with their sex because sex is a biological trait that has been determined even before the child is brought to this world. Thus, parents, schools, peers and the media actively support the learning process of the child in how it is to be a man and or a woman. Just like any other skill or behavior, one learns it to be rewarded or to avoid punishment, hence a girl will never fight with a boy on the school sand box because she has learned that it is not allowed for girls and that she is expected not to commit such actions, however that same girl may be standing on the sidelines cheering for the winning child and silently wishing she was there to throw a punch or two. If say for example the girl did jumped at the boy and punched him in the nose, then she is not behaving appropriately as defined by social norms and mores and would lead to punishment. Punishment may be as simple as being teased to be a boy or a lesbian for some and the reward for behaving well would mean that they are behaving in socially approved ways which makes a person well –liked and popular with others. This approach also points out that if gender identity formation is nothing more than a learned construct, then it cannot be subjected to modification or that it is inevitable (Gleitman, Fridlund, & Reisberg, 2004). The approach basically says that gender is dependent on how it is defined and prescribed by ones culture, if this culture says that gender should be based on the biological sex of the individual then it is from which the punishments and rewards for such gender appropriate behavior is identified and shared. However, if the culture says that biological sex should not be the sole basis for defining gender, then this culture would have a more egalitarian view of their gender.
The social learning perspective is however similar to other perspectives in terms of their emphasis on how gender identity develop which is facilitated by modeling and identification like the psychoanalytic theory but that it is based on observational learning and not on some unresolved psychological issues (Gleitman, Fridlund, & Reisberg, 2004). The key principles in social learning approach are that of socialization and stereotypes. Socialization is the process with which adults introduce the culture of the society to children who still ahs to form their own identities. And this is where modeling and observational learning is manifested. It is a fact that children imitate their parents and if the parent is modeling sex appropriate behaviors as prescribed by our culture, and then this teaches the child how to behave as man in such situations. Thus, parents and significant adults have to coordinate and work together to provide children with real and honest role models. Stereotypes are the generalizations that we have of other cultures and other sexes which often interferes with our ability to understand sexuality and how it affects a person in a particular culture, for example, an Arab who marries an American would require that his bride wear the traditional costume of Arab women and this is against her own convictions, that as a modern-day woman she need not follow what her husband says in terms of fashion and dressing up. The difference here lies in the social construction of gender for both parties, being a woman for the Arab means that she should be meek, obedient and serve him well. But for the American wife, being a woman gives her the right to feel beautiful, to be cautious and yet be open to suggestions but still maintain her own uniqueness. However, parents themselves respond to children according to sexual stereotypes, like buying a new born girl pink clothes and boys are dressed in blues.
This perspective resonates with me because per experience I was fortunate to grow up in a family that did not support stereotypes and one that did not strongly adhere to sex typing. Which is why, I myself do not understand how a man could be allowed to commit indecencies and yet have women punished for it. My parents had a non-traditional family system, my father stayed at home to take care of the kids and my mom worked full time. My gender socialization was formed in an environment where men wash the dishes, change diapers, cook dinner, and do the laundry as well as spend more time with the children. My mother worked in another city and she had to be away most of the time, she was the family provider and without her large paycheck we would not have survived. Thus social learning perspective would say that the gender roles I have learned are different from that of the society and thus I would probably behave in ways not in accordance with how a woman should behave in our society. At this point, I believe that children and even adults can learn new behaviors and that this should not be tied to our biological sex. However, a deeply rooted and ingrained cultural and social norm like gender qualities and attributes are difficult to change in a larger scale, being a man or a woman should not just come from what we are born with and by what other expect us to be, but by what our environment deals us in terms of learning and identity formation.
My personal definition of psychology is that it is the study of human and animal behavior that is geared towards the understanding, control and modification of such behaviors. This definition actually mirrors the mostly accepted definition of psychology but I have always believed in the wisdom of the ability to apply to real life situations what we know in order to be of service to others. After reading through the materials for this class, I have come to appreciate the diversity and unity of psychology in its several aspects and how important and worthwhile it is to discover and learn more about human nature than it is to study an insect or the bald eagle. Psychology has now become more than a field of study; it is now a way of life. At times I find myself reflecting on my relationships and interpersonal skills and I try to see it in the perspective of psychology and then engage in the process of analyzing my actions, motivations and desires and how it affects and influence other people and then attempt to control of modify a behavior that I find to be offensive or inappropriate.
These is all due to the simple truths that I have come to realize in this course and that is one needs to adopt and change with the changing times, to be always honest and a genuine person and one should always try to be a good person first before he/she can become someone for others. When I say behavior, it includes all the other functions and systems of the body that affects how a person behaves, thinks and feels. I do support the view that biology has as much to do with how we live our lives and how we respond to stress and problems as much as how we are shaped and formed by the environment we grew up in and the culture we have shared. Moreover, psychology for me is the helping profession and that its fundamental function should always be geared towards helping people live more meaningful lives than what they presently have and to help people maintain or enhance the quality of their relationships and personal life (Kuther, 2005). The different fields of specialization of psychology is inherently based on human behavior and this makes it an exciting and socially relevant field of study and one that will never probably end or die out because wherever there are people, psychology will surely be there also.
To be a psychologist or to be scholar/practitioner is simply being able to practice the profession of psychology specifically in the fields of school psychology, counseling, academe, research and program development and clinical. A psychologist can work in a number of settings and it is only up to the psychologist to choose which area to work with. Majority of counselors are in the school setting and it is often one of the most relevant and satisfying job in the field. Counselors actually are able to reach out and touch other people’s hearts and mind to help them lead better lives. To be a scholar at the same time is the need for psychologist to always be updated with their fields of specialization and to seek to study and research human behavior in different themes and thus contribute to the body of knowledge of the discipline (Stricker, 2000). A scholar is critical, analytical and creative in answering the call for further discourse and scientific research of psychological phenomena and recent developments in human behavior, human society and the human psyche.
The perspective that resonates more with my personal beliefs and principles in life is the humanistic perspective and specifically existentialism. I always believed that man is inherently good and that it is through his/her experiences that he/she comes to understand his/her purpose in this world (Rowan, 2001). Man has the inherent need to become a better person; it is this force that moves us to desire to contribute to society, to influence other people’s lives and it is a choice that each person has to face and resolve. I firmly feel that our existence in this world is not futile and that we need to discover who we are as persons, to get in-touch with our inner selves and then share this experience to others and then in some way or another we have affected other people’s lives. The humanistic perspective emphasize that man is driven to self-actualize and despite the many sufferings, trials and difficulties that man has gone through, he/she will still strive to live and become whole. I also need to emphasize that everything we have experienced was brought about by our personal decisions and that we have the free will to choose what to do, what to believe and what to pursue. For example, if we forego attending that long postponed girlfriend reunion because we are busy at the office, then it is our choice to prioritize our work and not because we need to work, and most importantly we need to own the decisions we make and accept its consequences.