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Biological influences on gender…read more

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Gender development is affected by genes
Males and females have different sex chromosomes. Females have a pair of
X chromosomes and males have one X and one Y chromosome.
All ova contain an X chromosome and sperm contain either a Y or an X
If an ovum is fertilised by a Y carrying sperm, the offspring will be male (XY).
If an ovum is fertilised by an X carrying sperm, the offspring will be female
Some humans are born with variations in the standard sex chromosome
pattern. Studies of people with such variations indicate that gender
differences can be caused by different sex chromosomes in male and
For example, in Klienefelter's syndrome males are born with XXY sex
chromosomes, they are sterile, tend to be less muscular and have less facial
and body hair. They can have problems using language to express
themselves and may have trouble with social interaction.…read more

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Gender development is affected by hormones
The major male and female hormones are androgens and oestrogens. Both
types of hormone are present in males and females, but in very different
Men produce more testosterone (an androgen) each day than females, and
females produce more oestrogens than males. However, some humans
produce smaller or larger quantities of these hormones than normal.
For example, sometimes people are born with much more testosterone than
normal ­ a particular form of a syndrome called CAH. This form of CAH can
cause early sexual development in males, but doesn't have much of an
effect otherwise. The behaviour of girls with this type of CAH tends to be
masculinised ­ they have a preference for playing with boy's toys.
Physically, girls tend to look more masculine. Their growth is fast and
puberty can happen early. CAH can also cause physical abnormalities such
as ambiguous genitalia. This can make it difficult to tell whether someone is
male of female at birth.
Case studies of conditions like this suggest that the effect of testosterone on
the developing brain is responsible for the differences in gender behaviour.…read more

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Evolutionary explanations for differences in
gender roles
Gender roles are the behaviours seen as appropriate for one
sex and not the other. Many psychologists believe that gender
roles originally developed through evolution.
Shields (1975) suggests that men and women evolved to have
roles that complemented each other ­ dividing the behaviours
necessary for survival.
Buss (1995) suggested that the different shown by men and
women are the result of different reproduction strategies. For
example, Trivers (1972) suggests that women invest more in
offspring than men do and so discriminate more when choosing
a mate. This could lead to some stereotypically female
behaviours, e.g. coyness. In contrast men have to compete for
mates so demonstrate more aggressive behaviours.…read more

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The biosocial approach
The biosocial approach explains gender development as a result of
both biological and social factors.
Money and Ehrhardt's (1972) biosocial theory of gender has two main
During foetal development, genetics and physiological changes lead
to the development of male of female physical characteristics.
Once the baby is born people react differently to it depending on its
gender ­ it's given a social label. This labelling means that males and
females are treated differently from birth and learn different attitudes
and behaviours as a result ­ they are socialised in different ways.
Money and Ehrhardt suggested that the social labelling of infants and
children has a greater influence on their behaviour than physiological
differences do.…read more

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Money and Ehrhardt
Identified 18 months to 3 years of age as the critical period for
gender role development.
They studied girls who had been incorrectly labelled as male at
birth (as they had a form of CAH) .
Until the disorder was diagnosed, the girls had been raised as
boys. They then underwent gender reassignment surgery and
were treated as girls.
The study found that those who received surgery before the
age of 3 were able to adapt to their new gender easily, whilst
those who received surgery after the age of 3 had much more
difficulty.…read more

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