12.4 Gender Identity
The development of gender and gender identity is likewise an interaction among social, biological, and representational influences (Ruble, Martin, & Berenbaum, 2006). Young children learn about gender from parents, peers, and others in society, and develop their own conceptions of the attributes associated with maleness or femaleness (called gender schemas). They also negotiate biological transitions (such as puberty) that cause their sense of themselves and their sexual identity to mature.
Each of these examples of the growth of social and emotional competence illustrates not only the interaction of social, biological, and representational influences, but also how their development unfolds over an extended period. Early influences are important, but not determinative, because the capabilities required for mature moral conduct, gender identity, and other outcomes continue to develop throughout childhood, adolescence, and even the adult years.
As the preceding sentence suggests, social and personality development continues through adolescence and the adult years, and it is influenced by the same constellation of social, biological, and representational influences discussed for childhood. Changing social relationships and roles, biological maturation and (much later) decline, and how the individual represents both experience and the self continue to form the bases for development throughout life. In this respect, when an adult looks forward rather than retrospectively to ask, “What kind of person am I becoming?”—A similarly fascinating, complex, multifaceted interaction of developmental processes lies ahead.511