Biosocial approach to gender development

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  • Created on: 06-05-13 20:25
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Biosocial approach to gender development
Approach includes both biological and social influences, however put more emphasis on
social factors than biological ones.
Biosocial theory (Money and Ehrhardt, 1972):
Argued, biological influences occur during prenatal development but after that after birth
onwards social factors only influence gender development.
If sex of rearing is decided upon before child's third birthday, the social factors are so
influential that child will accept their assigned gender identity.
This third year is the critical period ­ gender identity cannot be changed after that
age without causing psychological problems.
Key to gender development is the LABEL someone is given
Applies to intersex children as well.
Incorporates both nature and nurture aspects
Deterministic ­ treated in a way, you will act in a certain way
Supporting evidence:
Goldwyn et al. ­ Case of Mrs DW ­ AIS individual raised as a girl, when informed in
late teens she was genetically male, she nonetheless felt female and stayed in female
However: Not sure if gender identity was caused by social factors (reared as a girl) or
biological (lack of androgens)
Lack of evidence:
Imperato-McGinley et al (1979) ­ 10 children born with female anatomy was raised as
girls, however when puberty hit, testosterone levels increased causing male genitalia
to appear ­ children accepted new role.
Money and Ehrhardt (1972) ­ David Reimer was raised as a girl but always felt like a
male and when informed he was in fact a male he had an operation to turn him into
original sex.
Sample bias: Money and Ehrhardt only used supporting evidence from studies involving
abnormal individual's i.e. intersex individuals. This evidence may not be relevant to understand
normal gender development e.g such individuals may be more vulnerable to social influences.
Social role theory (Eagly and Wood, 1999)

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Proposed that selective pressures do not cause both physical and psychological differences,
only cause physical difference and this leads to sex role allocations, which in turn create
psychological sex differences.
Men ­ hunters ­ more aggressive
Women ­ homemaker/caregiver ­ empathic
Division of Labour:
Physical difference between men and women allow them to perform certain takes more
efficiently.…read more

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Also found when women had high status, male-female division of labour was less
pronounced, sex differences in mating preference became less pronounced ­ suggesting
social role are the driving force for psychological differences.
Challenged by Gangestad et al.…read more


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