The biosocial approach to gender development

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  • Created by: Kelsie
  • Created on: 28-05-14 18:22
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  • The biosocial approach to gender development
    • Biosocial theories
      • Money and Ehrhardt
        • Produced classic book: Man and woman, boy and girl
        • once a biological male/female is born, social labelling + differential treatment interact with biological factors.
          • this steers development
        • This theory was an attempt to integrate influences of nature + nurture.
        • It is sex of rearing that is the pivotal point of gender development
        • Biology = likely to determine sex of rearing as baby is sexed at birth
          • Everything else follows from that
            • BUT some interesx individuals may be mistyped at birth
              • Money + Ehrhardt predict of a genetic girl is mislabelled as a male and treated as a male before the age of 3 she would acquire the gender identity of a boy.
                • Thus the key to gender development is the label a person is given
    • Social role theory
      • Eagly and wood
        • selective pressures do not cause both physical and psychological differences; only physical
        • division of labour
          • physical differences between men and women allow them to perform different tasks more efficiently
            • e.g childbearing; women are better but due to this less able to do roles that require absence from home
            • e.g men; greater speed + upper body strength are good for tasks that require intensive bursts of energy + strength
          • in addition, in societies where strength is not required for occupational roles - social roles between men + women will be more similar
            • + psychological differences reduced
        • mate choice
          • what women + men seek  in a partner can be related to their social role rather then reproduction value (evolutionary view)
            • physical differences create difference in social roles
              • women maximise their outcomes by choosing mate who is a good wage earner
              • men maximise outcomes by seeking a mate successful in domestic role
              • therefore different social roles can explain sex differences in mate choice
        • hormonal differences
          • hormonal differences may be the outcome of social roles/psychological sex differences rather than cause
            • e.g testosterone is not the cause of greater male verses female aggressiveness but the effect of the fact that men (because of strength) engage in more athletic events - creating higher levels of testosterone than women.
    • Commentary
      • Lack of evidence
        • The theory took a blow from the outcome of the john/joan study
          • They hoped the study would be definitive evidence in favour of the importance of sex typing
      • Social bias
        • M + E had collected other evidence to support their theory but it was still derived from the study of abnormal individuals
          • e.g. the study of genetic females exposed to high levels of testosterone prenatally due to drugs taken by their mothers
            • May not be relevant to understanding normal gender development
    • Commentary
      • selective pressure
        • LUXEN = Behaviour as important as physical characteristic, therefore selective pressure would act directly on behaviour to create psychological as well as physical sex differences
      • sex differences without socialisation
        • LUXEN = research has shown very young children/animals display sex differences in toy preferences. Suggests such preferences would be biological rather than psychological because sex role socialisation is unlikely to have occurred in children/animals.
    • A social contructionist approach
      • the approach suggests that human behaviour is an invention or outcome of a particular society/culture.
      • No objective reality, such as a real difference between men + women
        • or if there is, its not relevant.
      • Behaviours best understood in terms of social context in which they occur
    • Real world application
      • In the last 100 years the feminist movement succeeded in bringing great changes for women (vote, equal pay)
        • Evolutionary approach seen as a force against gender equality as it might be seen to imply sex differences are innate + cannot be changed by social context
          • Supports feminist view that changes in psychological differences between men + women
      • Has high ethical appeal because sex roles are perceived as social + more flexible (LUXEN)
    • Buss' study of 37 cultures
      • the pattern of sex differences can be explained by social roles
      • In all cultures women seek men with resources while men prefer younger, attractive women.
        • Women have less earning capacity = women seek men with resources, power, dominance
        • Men want younger, attractive = not because of fertility but because of obedience


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