Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sex Role and Stereotypes Part.II

The preschool and kindergarten years are often an emotionally trying phase of sexual development. As part of the natural effort to understand what it means to be male or female, a child predictably forms an intense attachment to the parent of the opposite sex and a confusing love-hate relationship with the same-sex parent during this time. Such behavior usually begins around the age of three, as the child’s strengthening identity and self-confidence instill a new sense of omnipotence. The little girl feels that she can do anything her mother does, while the little boy thinks he can do everything his father does. The sense of omnipotence may become so overpowering that the child secretly desires to take the place of the parent of the same sex. Under this childish spell, the boy’s attachment to his mother increases; he wants to have her all to himself and wishes his father out of the way.

He may announce that he is going to marry his mother when he grows up. The girl develops similarly possessive feelings toward her father. While these childhood fantasies are ultimately harmless, they create tensions and anxiety in the child. The boy still loves his father and realizes that he needs his protection – even as he is rejecting him as a rival. Such tensions often lead to unpredictable outbursts of obnoxious behavior and stubborn defiance of the same-sex parent. Child psychologists also point to these conflicts as the cause of frightful nightmares in which animals and monsters chase the anxious child. Parents can ease the tensions of this transition in several ways. First, you should recognize that it is a normal and necessary stage of sexual development. Gauge your reactions accordingly; remember that your child needs your love and support even if he appears to be rejecting your affection.

Above all, do nothing to encourage these fantasies. The kindest response is to explain firmly and patiently that children cannot marry their parents; while you appreciate the child’s affection, you already have a spouse, and a special grown-up relationship with him. Your reaffirmation of your own parental role and relationship will help your child resolve his conflicting emotions. By the age of five or six, children come to accept their place in the family hierarchy. If he cannot replace his father, the boy decides, then he will be like him, and the girl aspires to be like her mother. The normal and healthy outcome of this phase is a strengthening of masculinity in boys and femininity in girls, and an increased identification with the same-sex parent.