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Jess Butler MES
"Discuss the role of chromosomes and hormones in gender
There are many theories that can be used to explain gender development. One
prominent theory is the biological theory. The female chromosome
combination is XX and the male chromosome combination is XY, but this is not
always the case. There are case studies, which show when abnormalities in the
chromosomes and hormones of individuals occur and it is not clear which sex
the person is physically and mentally.
Research has been done into the effects of chromosomes determining gender.
Three main chromosomal abnormality conditions were found: Klinefelter's
syndrome, Turner's syndrome and hermaphroditism. Klinefelter's is when a
male gains an extra X chromosome (XXY) resulting in some female
characteristics such a wide hips and under-developed testes. Turner's is when
a female loses an X chromosome (X) and exhibits some male characteristics
such as web of skin/broad shoulders and poor breast development.
Hermaphroditism is when an individual is born with both male and female
sexual parts. Hermaphrodites have both XX and XY chromosomes. These
abnormal cases are strong indications that the biological make-up of a human
plays a big role in gender development.
Another argument for biology determining gender is hormones. There have
been several case studies published on individuals and small groups of people
with abnormal hormonal levels. An example of this is the case of Melissa,
studied by Berenbaum and Hines 1992. Melissa was born with a rare metabolic
condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, or CAH for short. This
condition means that the genitalia looks ambiguous, though inside everything
is female. CAH is medically classed as an `intersex condition'. Melissa had a
missing enzyme in the adrenal gland, which stopped the production of Cortisol,
the stress hormone. According to research carried out by Maccoby and Jacklin,
women get more stressed out than men. This means that Melissa didn't have
the same characteristics of a female. Interestingly, as she grew up, Melissa was
more interested in engineering and DIY tasks rather than sewing or other
stereotypical hobbies females are supposed to enjoy. This is a strong case in
favour of hormones playing a large role in gender differences.
In addition to Melissa's instance, there is the Batista family, studied by
Imperato-McGinley 1974, which also provides strong hormonal evidence. There
were 10 children born into the Batista family and each of the boys had
exceptionally small penises and scrotum, which resembled female anatomy.
Despite having XY chromosomes, they were raised as girls. Once puberty
began, the testosterone levels had raised and normal sized penises and
testicles had grown. 22 other families in the same region had the same
problem and Imperato-McGinley had suggested that this was the result of the
inability to produce hormones responsible for the shaping of the penis and
scrotum as a foetus. Both the Melissa and the Batista family case study have
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Jess Butler MES
given scientists the opportunity to study the impact of nature/nurture on
A strength of the research on the role of chromosomes and hormones in gender
development, are that these unusual cases can show us what changes can occur
when we inhibit extra abnormal chromosomes and extra hormones.
Unfortunately, there are some methodological issues that come with this.…read more