33 About This Module: Social Development


What is gender? Isn’t that the same thing as sex? Well, no, not exactly. Gender refers to the socially-constructed aspects of maleness and femaleness. In this module, you will learn more about the ways in which gender, gender roles & stereotypes, and sexuality influence children’s development. For example, is there a benefit to being a female with a higher than average level of psychological masculinity (i.e., ‘masculine’ personality traits such as competitiveness, independence, confidence, assertiveness, etc.)? How do we develop the fundamental sense of being male or female (gender identity)? What does it mean to have masculine and feminine traits psychologically (androgyny)? And how is sexual orientation different from gender identity? There are many fascinating aspects to this topic. You will learn about the socialization of gender and how children come to know their gender, as well as main theories about gender. Hopefully, by the end the module, you may have a better understanding of how gender forces – both social and biological – have shaped who you have become.

Psychologists who study moral development are not particularly interested in one particular set of morals over another (i.e., Catholic morals versus Jewish morals). Rather, psychologists are interested in how children develop their own personal sense of right and wrong – a moral code, if you will. Additionally, psychologists are also interested in what makes some children more prosocial than others – more helpful, more giving, more self-sacrificing for others. It seems that almost every major world religion places a high moral and spiritual value on prosocial behaviors, even though religions may have differences on other issues of morality.

Who’s more important to your development – your parents or your friends? Well, that’s kind of trick question. In reality, the answer to that question really depends on a lot of factors, but none more important than your age. You’ll see in this module that friends are not important early on – in fact, very young children don’t have friendships with each other until about 4-5 years of age, and even then, they do not spend much time together. Parents usually remain very important in the child’s mind throughout childhood (barring some unusual circumstance like extreme abuse). As you read through the material, try to ascertain what parenting style you grew up with, the types of methods that your parents used, and how you might have been shaped. Siblings, our first friends, are also a big influence on us. (1)

Learning Outcome

1.  Students will be able to describe the field of child and adolescent psychology,including the main theories, research methods, and principles of development.

2.  Students will be able to summarize prenatal development and the major hazards/complications that may be encountered during prenatal development and birth.

3.  Students will be able to explain the important milestones encountered within the biological/physical, cognitive and socioemotional domains from infancy throughout adolescence. (1)


Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the importance of play to development.
  • Discuss how parents can support moral development in children.
  • Explain how peers and schools contribute to one’s social development.
  • Explicate Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. (1)


Online Learning Units


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Child and Adolescent Psychology Copyright © by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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