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Describe and evaluate the biosocial approach to gender development.
There are two main theories within the biosocial approach. The first, by money and ehrhardt, is called
biosocial theory. It was an attempt to integrate nature and nurture and states that once a baby is
born, labelling a differential treatment of boys and girls interacts with biological factors such as
testosterone levels to steer development. Their main argument is that the sex of rearing is pivotal to
development and everything follows on from that. However, sometimes intersexes are born. Money
and ehrhardt predicted that a mislabelled girl who was treated as a girl (nurture) would assume the
identity of a girl. Thus, the key to gender development is the label a child is given. However, there
are major issues with this theory. The David reimer case study was supposed to prove that a boy
bought up as a girl would support the theory by assuming the identity of a girl. However David knew
something was wrong and this must have been down to his genes and hormones as he was never
told he was a girl until after he expressed that he was unhappy. He had a sex change because he felt
like a boy. Therefore, there is a lack of evidence for the biosocial theory. Furthermore, what little
evidence there is, conducted by money and ehrhardt, can be criticised by sample bias. All the
evidence focuses on abnormal individuals which means that it may not be relevant to understanding
normal gender development.
Another theory in the biosocial approach is Eagly and wood's social role theory. It argues that the
evolutionary approach has some flaws and that selective pressure only cause physical not
psychological differences. The physical differences lead to the assignation of roles, which in turn lead
to the development of psychological differences. For example, women are built for childbearing and
so women have been assigned the role of homemaker. This then led to the psychological difference
of being more empathetic. Physical differences allowed men and women to do different tasks more
effectively. It also argues that sex differences in hormone levels are the result not the cause
(evolutionary approach) of social roles. For example, men are stronger physically so they engage in
more athletic competitions and are more aggressive. This leads to higher testosterone levels.
However, luxen criticises this theory. He argues that the evolutionary approach can explain many
aspects of this approach in a simpler way. He argues that behaviour is just as important as physical
characteristics and therefore, selective pressures would also produce psychological differences.
Furthermore, he points out that animals and very young children already display sex differences in
toy preference. This suggests that the preferences are biological because there has been no chance
for social role socialisation to occur yet.
However, strength of the biosocial approach is that it has real world applications. It can help gain
women equality because a change in social context would lead to a psychological change. It also has
high ethical appeal because sex roles are perceived as social and so more flexible. It is preferred to
the evolutionary approach which is seen as an enemy of women's equality because it states that sex
roles are innate and cannot be changed by changing the social context.
Describe and evaluate evolutionary explanations of gender roles.
Evolutionary explanations argue that gender role division is adaptive as a response to challenges
faced in the EEA. Therefore, our modern day roles are a product of inheritance rather than
socialisation. This is another aspect of the nature nurture debate because evolutionary perspectives
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However, some psychologists think that nature interacts
with nurture to bring our roles.
Division of labour can be explained by the evolutionary approach. Men evolved as the hunters and
women as the homemakers (childcare, shelter and cooking). This may have occurred because women
spent most of their adult life either pregnant or producing milk for a young baby. If a woman had
spent time hunting, they could not have been pregnant and it would reduce the reproductive success
of the group.…read more
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Discuss the role of genes and hormones in gender development.
Genes and hormones play an important role in gender development. Firstly, genes play a role. The XX
and XY chromosomes determine our biological sex. If the XY chromosome is present, the testes will
produce testosterone which leads to the development of male external genitalia. Usually, our sex,
hormones and genitalia all match and together make us "feel" that gender, which then influences
gender behaviour.…read more
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Animal studies are good in this way
because they allow us to study what would not be allowed on human. However, many people would
also argue that this is also unethical.
Describe and evaluate one or more cognitive developmental theory of gender development.
Kohlbergs gender constancy theory is one theory of gender development. It holds that changes n
gender thinking are solely the outcome of changes in a childs cognitive abilitys as they age. It is
divided into three stages.…read more