The level of cognitive development in a child influences their understanding of the concept of gender; however that is not the only factor that influences a child’s understanding of gender. Other aspects that can play a role in a child’s understanding of the concept of gender are the child’s physical, emotional, and social development.
A child’s concept of gender progresses over time from simple to highly complex. This type of development can be traced back to Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. There are four stages within this theory: Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational, and Formal Operations. The first stage of Sensorimotor happens between the ages of 0 to 2 years old and during that time frame language is used for “demands and cataloguing” by the child. There are different types of classifications and gender just so happens to be one of them which means that children start to learn gender pronouns around this time, but are not able to use it fully. The second stage of Preoperational happens between the ages of 2 to 7 years old and the processes of symbolic thinking, use of proper syntax, and grammar occur. Within Kohlberg’s Theory of Gender Identity, gender labeling/identity begins between the ages of 2 to 3.5 years old, gender stability begins between the ages of 3.5 to 4.5 years old, and gender constancy/consistency begins at the age of 6 years old. “gender is consistent over time, but can’t be generalized to others and appearance plays a major role” begins between the ages of 3.5 to 4.5 years old. These two stages of gender development correspond to the time that children begin to use “symbolic thinking, proper syntax, and grammar” within Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development.