A2 Psychology - Gender

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  • Created on: 02-02-16 15:18

Kohlberg's Cognitive Developmental Theory - A01

Three Stages:

1. Basic Gender Identity (ages 2-3) Able to label own gender

2. Gender Stability (ages 3-5) Aware gender is fixed over time but not in different situations

3. Gender Constancy (ages 5-7) Aware gender is fixed over time and in different situations

Children are now cognitively ready to develop appropriate gender roles and behaviour. When children are cognitively ready they begin to develop schemas of appropriate and inappropriate gender role behaviour.

Children then begin to actively seek out and imitate same sex models, Kohlberg called this self-socialisation.

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Kohlberg's Cognitive Developmental Theory - A02

Supporting Research - Slaby and Frey

Found that children rated as high in gender constancy showed a marked same sex bias i.e they gave more visual attention to same sex models they were shown on a screen. Provides evidence that as Kohlberg suggested once a child has achieved gender constancy, only then can they pay attention to same sex models. Supports Kohlberg's idea that gender development is an active process.

Supporting Research - McConaghy

Found that if a doll was dressed in transparent clothing so that its male or female genitals were visible, children aged 3-5 would jugde its gender by the clothes rather than the genitals. Children aged 3-5 have achieved gender stability, aware gender is fixed but not in different situations. However these findings were not absolute which makes it difficult to firmly conclude that these findings support Kohlberg's stage theory.

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Kohlberg's Cognitive Developmental Theory - A02

Contradicting Research

Research has found that young infants show prefernces for stereotypical male and female toys. Young children also rewarded gender appropriate behaviours in their peers even before they have achieved gender constancy. These children are able to self socialize before they hae achieved gender constancy, which Kohlberg suggested is needed before self socialisation. This makes us question the ages which Kohlberg used in his theory.

Evaluation - Strength

Considers both nature and nurture (holistic rather than reductionist) because the stages are universal so biologically determined and experiences determine how a child progresses through the three stages. Universally accepted. Better approach.

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Kohlberg's Cognitive Developmental Theory - A02


Problem with the stage theory as it is widely accepted that children develop at different speeds and not all achieve all three stages. Better to take a non stage theory e.g. Gender Schema theory.


In concentrating on the cognitive factors, this theory overlooks the wealth of biological evidence that genes and hormones affect gender development. May be better to take a biosocial approach, considers both nature and nurture.


GST may be more plausible as it suggests that you do not need gender constancy to be able to develop gender schemas, as it has been proved that some children develop gender schemas without achieving gender constancy.

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Gender Schema Theory - A01

Devised by Bem, Martin and Halverson who proposed that we learn gender schemas about what is appropriate gender behaviour through observations and interactions.

Gender schemas are an organised set of attitudes, beliefs and values stored in our memory about gender behaviour. We develop these gender schemas once we have achieved basic gender identity.

We also tend to focus on schemas which match our in-group gender identity and ignore out-group behaviour.

Teenagers tend to become less sex-typed and more androgynous once they learn that gender roles are socially constructed.

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Gender Schema Theory - A02

Supporting Research - Fagot:

He found that teachers reinforce boys and girls in the same feminine way but boys tend not to respond. This suggests that schemas have already been formed and boys do not pay attention to this out-group behaviour.

Fagot Evaluation:

However this research evidence has no cause and effect because there could be other reasons for the boys not responding to the reinforcement. This may be due to how the reinforcement is percieved. This makes us question the validity of these findings and doubt how valuable this evidence is for supporting GST.

Supporting Research - Hill and Flom:

Measured how long 2 year old children looked at male and femal actors performing masculine and feminine stereotyped activities. They found that children looked significantly longer at the gender inconsistent activities. Concluded = novel situation.

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Gender Schema Theory - A02

Hill and Flom Evaluation:

Strong support, however criticised for being ethnocentrically biased as the sample were all Caucasians from Hawaii. May be too specific to be generalised to the wider population. However, this study has been replicated with different cultures and similar findings were found, this increases the population validity and the reliability of the GST of gender development.

Contradicting Research - Eisenberg:

Found that 3-4 year olds justified their gender specific choice of toys without reference to gender stereotypes. This suggests that children act in a gender stereotypical way before developing gender schemas. This is in contrast with what the gender schema theory claims.

GST Strength:

Lots of research support and most accept that gender schemas develop much earlier then Kohlberg's theory suggests. E.g. Martin and Halverson found children under 6 recalled more gender consistent pictures e.g male footballer. In line with GST's prediction.

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Gender Schema Theory - A02

GST Weakness:

Can be regarded as reductionist as the theory neglects the influence of biological factors and instread assumes all gender orientated behaviour is influenced by cognitive factors, therefore GST can only provide a partial explanation for gender development.

GST Weakness:

Some concepts of gender schemas cannot be operationalised and tested as they are abstract concepts. This theory is also argued to have low scientific validity and so should be treated with caution when explaining gender development. However, in it's defence, just because GST lacks scientific validity doesn't mean it can't be a useful way to explain the development of gender.

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The role of Hormones in Gender Development - A01

Hormones (testosterone, oestrogen, progesterone and oxytocin) have an important influence on gender development. E.g. Pinel suggests that the male hormone testosterone causes male to be aggressive and dominant (stereotypical male characteristics) whereas the female hormones oestrogen, progesterone and oxytocin cause females to be sensitive and nurturing (stereotypical female characteristcs).

These important gender role differences caused by hormones have been argued to determine many gender roles such as in occupation, education and sport.

A01 Research - Deady found a link between high levels of testosterone in female saliva and a low desire to have a family. Suggests hormones influence gender role behaviour.

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The role of Hormones in Gender Development - A02


Found that female monkeys prenatally exposed to testosterone showed more 'rough and tumble' behaviour, dominance and aggression than other females. Similar findings have been found with mice and rats.


Humans are radically different to monkeys and so we may not be able to generalise the findings about gender development to humans. However, evolutionary psychologists argue that the same basic principles apply across all species and so we are able to generalise the findings to the human population.


Demonstrated that prenatal exposure to progesterone can have a feminising effect on bahaviour. Studied 20 male teengaers whose others had be treated with progesterone during pregnancy. Found to be less assertove and fewer masculine interests than a control group of boys.

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The role of Hormones in Gender Development - A02


This was a natural experiment and so the external validity is increased, supporting the role of hormones on gender development in real life situations. However the internal validity is reduced because of the lack of conrol over possible extraneous variables which weakens the evidence supporting hormonal influences on gender.


Found that females produce more of the hormone oxytocin than males. Oxytocin has been linked to gender differences in friendships and nurturing behaviour. Females produce high levels of oxytocin when giving birth, Kalat suggests, to trigger their maternal instincts.


Emphasises that gender roles/gender identity are soley down to hormones. Ignores the individuals free will to decide on their own gender identity.

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The role of Hormones in Gender Development - A02


Only concentrates on the biological influences on gender development, overlooks a wealth of evidence indicating that social/environmental factors also impact gender development. Therefore alternative explanations should be considered, for example, the biosocial approach which takes into account both nature and nurture.

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The role of Genes in Gender Development - A01

Males = XY  Females = **

It can be argued that this diference in sex chromosomes cause differences not only in biological sex but also in gender development. Genetic explanations can be reduced further to a single gene called SRY.

The SRY gene on the Y chromosome activates a gene called S0X9 which then activates genes in the testes and brain which masculinises the brain and body.

Ridley argues that this single gene determines biological sex and he also suggests determines much of our gender role behaviour such as aggression and dominance in males and friendships and nurturing in females.

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The role of Genes in Gender Development - A02

Koopman (Supporting Research):

Used genetic engineering to prenatally implant the SRY gene into female mice and found that they developed into males showing male gender role behaviour such as aggression, dominance and mating behaviour.


Argued that humans are radically different to mice and so it may not be appropriate to compare the gender roles on mice and humans. However, evolutionary psychologists would argue that the same basic principles apply across all species and so the findings can be generalised to the human population.

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The role of Genes in Gender Development - A02

Swaab and Fliers (Supporting Research):

Found the sexual dimorphic nucleus (SDN) in the hypothalamus was 2.5 times larger in men with twice the number of cells. They suggest that this structural brain difference between the sexes is caused by genes which control the release of testosterone which masculinises the brain. They also argue that this area of the brain is responsible for gender role behaviour including sexual orientation.

Cause and Effect:

Although this research evidence has scientific validity because an objective scientific measure was used, a limitation is that no firm cause and effect can be concluded between genes determining the size of the SDN and gender roles. Importantly there are individual differences in the size of the SDN within genders as well as between genders.

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The role of Genes in Gender Development - A02


Focuses only on genes as a cause of gender development and so ignores an individuals free will to determine their own gender identity/gender roles.

Genetic Reductionism:

Oversimplified the complex behaviour of gender identity/gender roles by suggesting it is influenced by a single gene (SRY). Ignores a wealth of evidence demonstrating that gender identity and gender roles are influenced by a complex interaction of many genes and hormones and also many other factors such as social/environmental. To fully understand what causes gender development it may be better to take an approach that considers both nature and nurture influences e.g. biosocial approach.

Scientific Validity:

Due to the use of objective scientific measures e.g. blood samples, genetic engineering. Therefore the reserarch evidence into the biological influence offers well respected support for the role of genes in gender role development.

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Evolutionary Explanations of Gender - A01

Gender roles are an adaptive behaviour that increases the chances of survival and reporductive success. Our gender roles are based on what was adaptive in our ancestral past.

1. Parental Investment Theory:

Trivers suggests that behavioural differences between men and women evolved due to different reproductive strategies between the sexes. For males, each offspring involves little parental investment, but for females each offspring involves considerable investment, at least 9 months. Trivers argues that this gender difference in reporductive strategies has a direct effect on gender development.

2. Evolved

Another evolutionary explanation of gender is that males have evolved an aggressive instinct and females a nurturing instinct. Buss argues that this gender difference is adaptive and therefore increases the chances of reproductive success for both males and females.

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Evolutionary Explanations of Gender - A02

Clark and Hatfield (Support for Parental Investment Theory):

Found that men are much more likely to agree to casual sex (75%) than women (0%) suggesting that women are not motivated purely by sex but by emotional relationships instead (48 men and 48 women asked).


These findings suppoort the parental investment theory becasue male promiscuous behaviour and female rejection of casual sex is what would be expected. The possible parental investment consequences for males is much less than for femlaes, therefore this gender role difference would be adaptive for both males and females in terms of reporductive success.

Buss (Support for Parental Investment Theory):

Reports that a meta-analysis involving over 30 cultures shows that males are significantly more likely to be sexually promiscuous than females which is what the evolutionary theory predicts. This finding suggests good cultural validity and strengthens the evolutionary explanation of gender.

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Evolutionary Explanations of Gender - A02

Not absolute:

However the findings from both of these studies were not absolute (100%) so this suggests that social factors such as experiences and culture can override evolutionary instincitve drives. Therefore parental investment theory can be considered reductionist and does not account for individual differences.

Williams and Best (Support for the second evolutionary explanation):

Investigated gender roles in over 30 different cultures and found that men were more dominant, aggressive and independent. Women were found to be more nurturing, expressive and emotional.


Can be criticised for being reductionist as it focuses on inherited apadtive genes. However this criticism is unjustified because evolutionary theories do focus on genes but also acknowledge that the environment can also influence gender role behaviour. Not considered as reductionist compared to other explantions of gendere development such as the hormonal explantion.

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Evolutionary Explanations of Gender - A02

Socially Sensitive:

Because they suggest that gender differences are natural and therefore desirable and inevitable. This can promote gender differences in many situations such as employment and sport, therefore can be used to justify sexism. Despite the sensitive nature of evolutionary explanations of gender, this does not mean that they lack validity and as Buss argues it is often the case the human nature is not what we would like it to be. Buss also rejects that evolutionary explanations of gender claim inevitability of gender differences, he points out that culture and experiences can have a stronger influence than genetic evolution for many people.

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The Biosocial Approach to Gender Development - A01

Argues that gender development is determined by an interaction of both biological and social factors. Biological factors determine biological sex and social factors largely determine gender.

The biosocial approach believes that a child's perceived biological sex and the label "boy" or "girl" is the most important influence on the way adults and other children treat a child. The way others treat a child and their expectations is what determines the development of gender identity and gender roles.

A01 Research - Money and Ehrhardt;

Proposed gender neutrality at birth, believe before the age of 3 a child's gender is flexible and can be changed from their chromosomal sex without any negative psychological consequences. They argue that how a child is labelled determines how they are socialized. This then determines the child's gender identity, gender roles and sexual orientation.

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The Biosocial Approach to Gender Development - A02

Baby X (Supporting Research):

Smith and Lloyd dressed babies in non-specific gender clothes and labelled them either male or female names. They found that adults played with them according to their gender label rather than their temperament.

Condry (Supporting Research):

Demonstrated the role of labels in gender development. Over 200 adults (male and female) were shown a video of a child labelled either "David" or "Dana" playing with a jack-in-the-box which caused the child to cry. They were then asked to describe the emotions of the baby. Most adults labelled David's behaviour as anger yet Dana's exact same behaviour as fear.

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The Biosocial Approach to Gender Development - A02


Meaning that all possible extraneous variables were controlled, therefore the internal validity is strengthened and so cause and effect conclusions can be established meaning that we can draw firm conclusions about how the gender label you are assigned influences how you are treated.

Bradley (Supporting Research):

Reports a case study of a biological boy who had gender reassignment surgery and raised as a girl. Although she showed some male behaviour as a child, she preffered female company, was happy as a female and had a female gender identity.

Single Case Study:

These findings suggest that socialisation can override biological sex to determine gender identity/gender roles which supports the biosocial approach to gender development. However, this is a single case study and other studies have found conflicting results. Therefore the findings may not be able to be generalised to the wider population. Further research is needed.

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The Biosocial Approach to Gender Development - A02

Positive Approach:

Because it does not see gender as fixed so it is possible to develop gender identity and gender roles in new and positive ways. E.g. people can become more accepting about gender roles which previously did not fit gender stereotypes.


There are many studies supporting alternative explanations to the biosocial approach which needs to be considered to have a fuller understanding of gender development, such as genetics and hormones which attempt to provide full explanations of gender development. However, it seems reasonable to argue that the biosocial approach is more acceptable because it can explain the roles of both nature and nurture so it cannot be criticised for being a reductionist approach.

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The Biosocial Approach to Gender Dysphoria - A01

Explains gender dysphoria as resulting from a complex interaction of both biological and social factors. Biological factors such as genes and hormones predispose certain people to gender dysphoria but according to the biosocial approach this disorder will only manifest itself when certain social or environmental factors are experienced e.g.

  • Absent father or mother during the phallic stage of psychosexual development
  • Maladaptive learning
  • Maladaptive gender schemas

Psychodynamic Approach:

Failure to resolve the Oedipus or Electra conflict during the phallic stage can lead to gender dysphoria. Psychodynamic theorists such as Stoller point to extremely close mother/son relationships, cause strong identification with the mother, leading to reversal of expected gender roles.

Learning theorists (Behavioural Approach): Similarly point to the absence of fathers to provied a male role model as a cause of gender dysphoria in boys.

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The Biosocial Approach to Gender Dysphoria - A02

Drummond (Supporting Research):

However, the great majority of people with the types of family histories described by the psychodynamic and learning theorists do not develop gender dysphoria. It may be the case that social influences interact with a biological predisiposition. Drummond found that many adults with a transgender identity showed cross-gender preferences in toys, games and clothing very early in childhood. He argues that the evidence suggests that early learning experiences interact with a genetic predispostion to cause gender dysphoria.


However it is difficult to test the psychodynamic explanation as it is difficult to determine cause and effect because it is hard to know for sure what has happened in someones childhood that can explain the present. This is retrospective data which may not be accurate. Further research evidence needed.

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The Biosocial Approach to Gender Dysphoria - A02


In clinical interviews, Stoller found that gender identity disorder (GID) boys to have close mother-son relationships which he argues may have confused gender identity. Can be praised as it was conducted in a lab, therefore the study is replicable and cause and effect conclusions can be made about gender dysphoria.

Subjective Interviews:

However this study used interviews which are subjective as they are only specific to this specific group of participants. Therefore the study may not be true in explaining the causes of gender dysphoria in all boys. Further research is needed to be able to fully explain the causes of gender dysphoria.

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The Biosocial Approach to Gender Dysphoria - A02


When a sole psychological or biological explanation is used, it can be criticised for reductionism or determinism. A major strength of the biosocial approach is that lots of differet reasons for gender dysphoria are considered so it cannot be criticised for reductionism or determinism. The fact that both nature and nurture are considered increases the validity of the biosocial approach to gender dysphoria.


Although both biological and social factors are considered the evidence seems to provide stronger support for biological influences on gender dysphoria. E.g. Coolidge carried out a meta-analysis of the available studies and concluded that 62% of the variance in the reported symptoms for gender dysphoria could be attributed to biological factors and 32% to environmental factors, which suggest that gender dysphoria is mainly a biological disorder rather than psychologcial. This contradicts the biosocial approach because the greater emphasis is put on social factors as a cause of gender dysphoria.

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The Biosocial Approach to Gender Dysphoria - A02


Argues that much of the evidence and theories on the possible causes of gender dysphoria is based on transgender individuals, and importantly, many transgender individuals do not meet the current DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria because they show no significant distress or impairment in daily functioning needed to meet the criteria. We presently lack the knowledge needed to understand why some transgender individuals go on to develop gender dysphoria. Therefore the biosocial approach, like other explanations of gender dysphoria may lack validity because of limited samples used in research which often do not meet the criteria for gender dysphoria.

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Social Influences on Gender (SLT) - A01

Explains how parents and peers influence gender identity and gender roles by observational learning, positive reinforcement of appropriate gender roles and punishment of inappropriate gender roles.

Children observe gender role behaviours of parents and same sex peers, store these gender roles in the memory system and then imitate these gender role behaviours. The likelihood of imitation is influenced by:

  • Direct reinforcement
  • Vicarious reinforcement
  • The individuals level of self-efficacy
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Social Influences on Gender (SLT) - A02

Fagot (Supporting Research):

Found that 2 year old boys and girls criticise and punish their peers for gender inappropriate behaviour and reinforce gender appropriate behaviour. In another study he found parents punish and reinforce even before the age of 2. E.g. girls were punished for climbing trees and rewarded for playing with dolls whereas boys were criticised for playing with dolls but were praised for rough and tumble play. Both studies found that vicarious reinforcement and vicarious punishment was an important influence on the imitation of gender roles.

Lips (Supporting Research):

Reviewed a large amount of available literature and concluded that parents are the most important influence on gender roles when children are young, however peers become more important gender role models in later childhood from about age 10. This shows how both parents and peers influence gender development. Provides insights on how age is a crucial factor when considering the influence of parents and peers on gender.

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Social Influences on Gender (SLT) - A02

Thompson and Zerbinos (Supporting Research):

Asked 4-9 year old children to describe cartoon characters and found that they perceived them in gender stereotypical ways. Males were described as aggressive and active and females were described as domestic and concerned with their appearance.

Supports Media:

Demonstrates how the media can influence gender roles from an early age by reinforcing gender stereotypes. However the media does not influence gender roles of all children exposed to the same media, this suggests that other factors such as personality are involved.

Practical Applications:

Should teach more gender neutral behaviour e.g. Pingree found that stereotyping was reduced when children were shown commercials with women in non-traditional roles. This has led to pressure on programme producers to use this knowledge to alter such attitudes.

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Social Influences on Gender (SLT) - A02

Gender Roles:

Not all gender roles can be explained by SLT, biological factors also influence gender roles e.g. research shows that testosterone is linked to aggression which can influence male gender roles and oxytocin to nurturing behaviours which can influence female gender roles.

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Social Influences on Gender (Cultural) - A01

Ethnographic research carried out by Mead involved the study of gender roles in three cultural groups in New Guinea. She found differences in gender roles between the three groups which she argued demonstrates that gender roles are determined by social factors, including cultural norms and socialisation. She suggets that biological factors have no influence on gender roles.

Mead found that:

  • Mundugumor men and women were socialised to be aggressive and emotionally unresponsive
  • Arapesh men and women were caring, non-aggressive and sensitive to the needs of others
  • In Tchambuli there was gender role reversal (compared to Western Cultures), males were sensitive and females were dominant and independent.
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Social Influences on Gender (Cultural) - A02

Qualitative Data:

A strength of ethnographic research is that it provides qualitative data analysis about cultural similarities and differences in gender roles, which has good external validity because she lived with and studied these three cultures. Reflects gender roles in real life situations.

Researcher Bias:

Mead was accused of intepreting the data to support her own expectations, critics also point out that she had little understanding of the language spoken in these three cultures, which they claim reduces the internal validity of her findings.

Williams and Best (Supporting Research for the role of nature in gender roles):

Investigated attitudes to gender roles in over 30 cultures using questionnaires administered to over 2800 University students. They found that there was a universal agreement across cultures about what were masculine/feminine traits.

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Social Influences on Gender (Cultural) - A02

Cultural Validity:

Due the use of over 30 different cultures, increases the cultural validity of the findings and conclusions about cultural influences on gender roles.


Used of a closed questionnaire which although produces objective, measureable data, does not allow participants to express their own beliefs, attitudes and opinions about gender roles. Also prone to social desirability bias.....


The theory ignores the role of nurture as it suggests that gender behaviours are innate and developed from nature. Does not take into account any social influences. Fails to provide a holistic account and so therefore lacks internal validity.

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Social Influences on Gender (Cultural) - A02


From the research, it is clear that culture influences gender roles, however it is widely accepted that genes determine our biological sex which can also influence gender roles. Need to consider a biological approach to draw firm conclusions on the influences of gender roles.

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