This article focuses upon the role of gender as a significant aspect of self-concept, one that acquires particular salience at times of transition in a person's life. We suggest that transitional phases intensify the sociocultural processes of identity construction, and that gender acquires particular salience as an aspect of identity at these times of transition. Both authors have undertaken studies that focused on gender as an aspect of identity during key transitional phases of the school career, one focused on the first transition to formal schooling and the other on the transition from primary to secondary schooling. Illustrations will be drawn from both these studies to support the suggestion that the social category of gender functions as a means of providing a schematic principle for 'coping' with transitions. We outline a programme for further empirical research that could be employed to develop and explore this suggestion further.