Atypical Gender Development

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  • Atypical Gender Development
    • Gender Dysphoria
      • When a person who is genetically male or female, feels they are the opposite sex
        • Mismatch between sex & gender identity leads to distressing feelings called gender dysphoria
        • Recognised as a medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It is NOT a mental illness
      • Progression
        • 1st signs appear at a young age
          • For most cases, it is a part of growing up that doesn't often pass beyond puberty
        • Adults with gender dysphoria can feel trapped inside a body that doesn't match gender identity
          • 1 in 5,000 people
    • DSM V diagnosis in adults & adolescents
      • Definite mismatch between assigned & expressed gender for at least 6 months
      • Leads to clinically significant distress &/or functioning impairment
    • Social Explanations of Gender Dysphoria
      • Operant Conditioning
        • Gender dysphoria is a learned behaviour. Reinforcing gender atypical behaviour produces conflict between sex & gender identity
          • Could explain why more children than adults are gender dysphoric. Parents & family likely to be accepting & praise child for gender dysphoric behaviour
          • Child has more influence from society when they grow up & is more likely society will punish gender dysphoric behaviour. Weakens argument
      • SLT
        • Could be learnt through observation & imitation of models carrying out atypical behaviours
          • Bennett 2006 - SLT can tell us how these behaviours develop, but cannot explain people's strong beliefs they are of the wrong sex
          • Doesn't explain why behaviour cannot be influenced by therapy. Suggests greater influence is that of biology
        • Reker 1995 - reported lack or stereotypical role models in the lives of 70 gender dysphoric males
      • Mental Illness
        • Mental illness in a parent leads to childhood trauma, leading to gender dysphoria
        • Coates et al - Case study of gender dysphoric boy who resolved anxiety due to mother's depression after an abortion, by creating a gender dysphoric fantasy
        • Cole et al - studied 435 gender dysphoric participants and found no greater link between mental illness and gender dysphoria than in a lay population - weakens causal link
      • Parental Relationships
        • Interviews suggest relationship between overly-close mother & son and severe paternal rejection for females may lead to gender dysphoria
        • Zucker - 115 boys with gender identity issues. 64% gender dysphoric males had separation anxiety compared to 38% without gender dysphoria
        • Not all with gender dysphoria have overbearing or rejecting parental relationships
    • Biological Explanations of Gender Dysphoria
      • Transsexual Gene
        • Hare - Male to female transsexuals had a longer androgen receptor gene than a lay sample, reducing action of testosterone & possibly influencing gender development
        • Study of 14,000 Dutch twins, prevalence for cross-gender behaviour was greater in mz twins
          • Not 100% concordance between mz twins, so cannot state that gender behaviour is just biological, environment must also have an influence
      • Brain-sex theory
        • Those with gender dysphoria have similar hypothalamic uncinate nucleus brain area as their desired sex. These structural differences may link to abnormal hormone activity that affects gender development
          • Supported by post mortem of 17 gender dysmorphic people.
        • Gladue - no significant difference between hormone levels in gender dysmorphic, homosexual & heterosexual males. Indicates social explanation
      • Pesticides
        • DDT contains oestrogen & interactions with a male foetus may cause issues with typical gender development
        • Research found that boys born to mothers exposed to this pesticide displayed feminine behaviours
          • Not relevant to all cases of gender dysphoria = limited explantion


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