Discuss the biosocial theory of gender development with reference to gender dysphoria.

A 24 mark explanation of the biosocial theory of gender development, otherwise known as social role theory. This question uses this idea to explain gender dysphoria

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Discuss one biosocial theory of gender
development with reference to gender
Gender dysphoria, otherwise known as gender identity disorder is a condition in which people are
uncomfortable with the gender they have been assigned to i.e they feel they have been born in the
wrong body.
The biosocial theory is an approach encompassing both biological and social influences. Gangestad et
al (2006) note that there are two facts to consider in relation to gender; the first that there are
significant universals in gender behaviour and there are significant cultural variations in gender
differences. Eagly and Wood proposed the Social Role Theory in response to this. They believe that
selective pressures from evolution only cause the physical differences in sex which then leads to sex
role allocations which in turn causes the psychological differences. For example women are born with
breasts, which makes them more likely to be the child carer and this makes them more patient kind
and loving.
There are several biological foundations for gender dysphoria. One physical trait is unusual brain
development. Small areas of the brain are different in males and females. Those experiencing
gender dysphoria often have these areas developed in a way that corresponds to the opposite sex
of their other biological sex characteristics. However, the child's parents would bring the child up as
the sex consistent to their genitalia. This can lead to gender dysphoria as the child would have
different thoughts to the sex they were brought up as.
Another physical trait can be XY females and XX males. XX males are girls who wish to be boys and XY
females are male but feel like girls. This condition occurs when the brain develops inconsistently to
the genitalia. However parents do not normally know this and so bring up their child consistent to
their biological sex characteristics. This then leads to confusion on the child's part and so gender
However, social role theory also emphasises the role of nurture and family constellations. Stroller
(1968) found that XX males often have a depressed mother and an absent father, leaving the child to
deal with depression. This severes the relationship and bond so the child does not identify with same
sex model leading to gender dysphoria. XY females often have an over close relationship with their
mother and a distant father. This again leads to the child not being able to identify with a same sex
model and so gender dysphoria occurs.
Rekers et al studied gender dysphoria suffering boys. 80% of the mothers had psychiatric problems
and 45% of the fathers had a history of mental health problems, implying that gender dysphoria is a
result of a dysfunctional family background.
Evidence in favour of the Social Role Theory's concept of a biological basis comes from Vreugdenhil
et al (2002) who found that children of mothers exposed to dioxins had higher levels of oestrogen

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This suggests that despite initially being an environmental factor, the
dioxins altered the physical structure and functioning of the children's bodies and subsequent
behaviour, supporting the idea that gender development could have a biological basis.
Further evidence for the role of nature is provided by Zhou et al (1995) who supported the claim that
the brains of transsexuals match that of their desired sex.…read more



A very useful resource for gender students, thank you!

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