Children's Search for Gender Cues: Cognitive Perspectives on Gender Development

Carol Leone Martin, Diane Ruble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Young children search for cues about gender - who should or should not do a particular activity, who can play with whom, and why girls and boys are different. From a vast array of gendered cues in their social worlds, children quickly form an impressive constellation of gender cognitions, including gender self-conceptions (gender identity) and gender stereotypes. Cognitive perspectives on gender development (i.e., cognitive developmental theory and gender-schema theory) assume that children actively search for ways to make sense of the social world that surrounds them. Gender identity develops as children realize that they belong to one gender group, and the consequences include increased motivation to be similar to other members of their group, preferences for members of their own group, selective attention to and memory for information relevant to their own sex, and increased interest in activities relevant to their own sex. Cognitive perspectives have been influential in increasing understanding of how children develop and apply gender stereotypes, and in their focus on children's active role in gender socialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-70
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Cognitive theories
  • Gender development
  • Gender stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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