Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective

By Irene H. Frieze; Jacquelynne E. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

7

Cognitive-Developmental Theories
of Sex-Role Socialization

*Recently, a new theoretical framework, based on the pioneering work of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, has emerged. Early in this century Piaget began his study of the thought patterns and logic of children. Based on this early work, Piaget and other cognitive-developmentalists have carefully outlined the limitations placed on children's reasoning powers at different ages or in different stages of cognitive maturity. In his work on cognition, Piaget has intoduced many important concepts that have added to our understanding of development. Several of these are particularly important for our discussion of sex-role acquisition. First, he suggested that people create schemata—mental categories and operations—through their interactions with the world. Once formed, these schemata influence subsequent interpretations of reality. New information is either assimilated into or leads to the accommodation of, or change in existing schemata.

Secondly, Piaget suggested that adaptive functioning, which he called equilibrium, reflects a balance between assimilatory and accommodative processes. Thus when one is in a state of equilibrium, one is both modifying new information to fit preexisting schemata and is adjusting one's schemata to fit new information.

Finally, Piaget theorizes that children go through various stages in their cognitive development. Passage through these stages is marked by alternate states of cognitive equilibrium and disequilibrium. During the equilibration

____________________
*
Jacquelynne Parsons was the primary author of this chapter.

-114-

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