AS - level Specification B Gender

AS-level Psychology Specification B - Gender

  • Klinefelter's syndrome
  • Turner's syndrome
  • Nature Vs. Nurture
  • Different views
HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Phillipa
  • Created on: 22-04-09 20:04

Gender Concepts

Adrogyny: androgynous describes people who characteristics are a balanced mixture of masculine and feminine traits.

Sex role steryotypes: an organised belief about the behaviour, attitudes and characteristics expected of males and females.These stereotypical beliefs cause people to overestimate the differences between males and females

1 of 20

Sex and gender

Sex refers to the individual’s biological status as a male and female.

Gender identity refers to behavioural characteristics associated with being male or female.

Nature v nurture

Biological explanation: the differences that exist between male and female characteristics were the result of being born biologically male or female.

In contrast to the nature argument proposed by biologists, some psychologists differentiated between a person’s sex and their gender and introduced the idea that gender characteristics are acquired as a result of the nurturing aspects of the environment.

2 of 20

The biological explanation of gender development

Biologists do not distinguish between sex and gender. They argue that the differences in behaviour characteristics between males and females are the result of being born biologically a male or female. Gender formation takes place largely during foetal development and these sex differences are caused by chromosomes and the action of sex hormones The environment plays no part whatsoever in the formation of gender.

To support their claim that gender is biologically determined, biologists point to the fact that abnormalities in chromosomes can lead to sex/gender problems.

3 of 20

Turner's syndrome

  • Have an XO chromosome pairing
  • Typically short, achieving an average adult height of only 4’7.
  • Have a webbed kneck.
  • Ovaries and breasts may not develop which means they can be infertile as adults.
  • May have maths and or spatial skills problems but are not usually intellectually damaged.
  • Experience body image and self esteem problems.
  • Other problems can include; kidney problems, high blood pressure, heart problems, overweight, hearing difficulties, diabetes, cataracts, and thyroid problems.
4 of 20

Klinefelters syndrome

  • Those with Klinefelter Syndrome have the chromosome combination of XXY.
  • A person with Kleinfelter’s has 47 chromosomes.

  • Common Characteristics Can Include:

    • Infertility. They can experience normal sexual function but they cannot produce sperm for fathering children.
    • May undergo some breast tissue development.
    • The penis is usually of average length, although the testes are small. There may be a decreased growth of facial hair.
    • Although most boys with Klinefelter Syndrome are tall (the average is 6' 1/2"), they may not be particularly athletic or coordinated.
    • Increased risk for speech and language problems which contribute to social and/or school learning problems.
    • They may be more immature, shy and dependent than their brothers and other boys their age. They may be somewhat passive and apathetic; they may lack initiative, be very sensitive, and have a fragile self-esteem.
5 of 20

Evaluation of the biological approach

that highlights the important role that chromosomes and sex hormones play in the formation of gender identity

biologists overlook is the influence that the environment can have on shaping gender behaviour. Social learning theorists, for example highlight the role of modelling and reinforcement

For biologists, the acquisition of gender identity begins during pre-foetal development and is completed at puberty. This contrasts with many other approaches. For example, Social Learning Theory argues the process begins at birth and can last a life time. Cognitive Development Theory argues the main processes take place between the ages of 2-8 years of age but could last a life time. For psychodynamic theory, the process begins and ends between the ages of 5-6.

6 of 20

Empirical Evidence that Challenges the Biological

Mead:compare sex roles and the division of labour in three different tribal societies.

aim was to find out if gender was the product of nature (read biology) or nurture

results that the masculine and feminine roles adopted by males and females were very different in the various tribes.

conclusion that there is no inevitable link between gender behaviour and biological sex and that gender preferences is strongly associated with cultural socialisation.

Money and Erhardt (1972) : studied an identical twin boy who experienced a surgical accident to his genitals was surgically reassigned at the age of seven months to genitally look like a girl.

aim of the case study was to investigate whether the baby would develop as a male or female.

results: that the child developed as a normal female in contrast to her identical twin brother

conclusion: that gender is socially rather than biologically constructed.

7 of 20

The Social learning theory

maintained that learning was a product of the way a person mentally processes observations of other people’s actions.

  • gender behaviour is determined by environmental influences and learned as a result of observation and modelling.
  • Modelling and Positive Consequences
  • learning can take place vicariously, that is by observing the reinforcement or consequences of others behaviour (termed vicarious learning). Hence cartoon characters in the media can act as a model.
  • Identification and Reinforcement
8 of 20

Supporting evidence

Masters et al 1979

aim was to investigate if knowledge of sex-appropriate/inappropriate behaviour would influence imitation of behaviour or the sex of the role model.

experiment 4-5 year olds were shown gender neutral toys (e.g. a balloon) and told that some toys were appropriate for boys and some for girls.

The children then watched a video of a girl and a boy model playing with the toys. After the video they were given the opportunity to play with the toys and asked what they liked best.

results show that both the boys and girls were influenced by the appropriateness of the behaviour rather than the sex of the role model.

concluded that appropriateness of behaviour is a bigger factor in imitation than whether the model is the same sex.

Fagot (1978 and 1985)

1978) observed how parents of young boys and girls reinforced gender identity during play activities. Reinforcement was defined as either praise or criticism. She found that boys were conditioned to be independent and active and girls to be dependent and passive.

In another observational study of female teachers and 2 year old boys and girls during play group activities, Fagot (1985) found that there was a difference in the way in which the children responded to who gave the reinforcement.

Girls were influenced by both teachers and peers. Boys on the other hand, responded more to their peers than the teachers when engaging in ‘masculine’ defined activities (rough and tumble play).

Fagot conclusions were that gender appropriate behaviour can be reinforced by parents, and that for boys, the sex of the role model is important in reinforcing what is considered sex appropriate behaviour.

9 of 20

Evaluative comments

the theory is able to explain why children do play with gender-related toys and why boys are more concerned about appropriate gender behaviour

The theory is unable to explain why such strong gender preferences exist at a very young age before learning could have taken place. Similarly, the theory cannot explain why two sisters for example who have been raised by the same models can differ in their femininity.

10 of 20

The Cognitive Development Explanation

  • distinguishes between sex and gender. Gender formation is the result of learned responses in the form of mental representation of gender behaviour (schema) that have been acquired from the environment. The way a child thinks about gender develops in stages between the ages of two to about eight. However, schemas are not fixed and according to this view people continually renew and update their gender schema which means their gender characteristics can change over a life time.
11 of 20

Evaluative Comments

the theory is able to explain why children do play with gender-related toys and why boys are more concerned about appropriate gender behaviour

The theory is able to highlight the important role that the environment plays in shaping gender identity.

The theory is unable to explain why such strong gender preferences exist at a very young age before learning could have taken place. Similarly, the theory cannot explain why two sisters for example who have been raised by the same models can differ in their femininity. This suggests that possibly chromosomes and hormones may have a role to play in the acquiring of gender identity as Biologists suggest. The theory is environmentally reductionist because it overlooks other factors that could contribute to the formation of gender identity

Whereas Biologists do not distinguish between sex and gender, Social Learning theory does.

Both the Social Learning and Cognitive explanations distinguish between sex and gender and both maintain that gender formation begins primarily in early child hood and that for different reasons gender formation can last a life time

12 of 20

The Cognitive Development Explanation

Main features

focus on the internal mental world. Distinguishes between sex and gender. Gender formation is the result of learned responses in the form of mental representation of gender behaviour that have been acquired from the environment. Gender develops in stages between the ages of two to about eight. However, people continually renew and update their gender schema which means their gender characteristics can change over a life time.

Gender schemas

A mental representation containing ideas about appropriate behaviour for males and females.

13 of 20

Kohlberg’s Theory of Gender Acquisition (1964)

Based on the ideas of Piaget, He proposed three stages of gender understanding in which he explained how a child’s view of gender becomes gradually more sophisticated with age:

Gender identity: At two years old, a child is able to label his or her own sex correctly, knowing that they are male or female, and is also able to recognise other people as male or female.

Gender Stability: Between three and a half and four and a half years old. The child knows that they will always be the the same sex

Gender Constancy: Between four and a half and seven years old. When a child realises that gender remains the same across all situations.

14 of 20

Supporting Empirical Evidence

Kohlberg (1966)

studied children aged 2-3 years of age. Kohlberg asked the children about their understanding of gender. Found that children generally lacked gender stability and thought that they could become a mother or father when they grew up. They also lacked gender constancy which was illustrated, for example, by boys thinking that their gender could change if they grew their hair or if they wore a dress.

Damon (1977)

Aim: whether children aged 4-9 concept of gender changed over time.

Method: told the children a story about a boy called George who enjoyed playing with dolls. George’s parents wanted to discourage him and said that only girls played with dolls. Damon asked the children questions about whether people were right to interfere with the type of toys children play with and whether it was alright for George to play with dolls if he wanted.

Results: The four-year-olds thought it was alright for George to play with dolls; the six-year-olds thought it was quite wrong and shouldn’t be allowed. The nine-year-olds thought that, whilst it was unusual, it was not a bad thing to do and George should be allowed to play with dolls if he really wanted to.

Conclusion:that children’s understanding of gender-appropriate behaviour changes with age reflecting their level of cognitive development.

15 of 20

Evaluative comments

unlike other theories it highlights the importance of thought processing and is able to explain the increase in children’s concern about gendered behaviour and stereotyping at about the age of six.

SLT argues that children respond to models in the environment which leads to gender development. Cog theory appears to be arguing that gender identity develops as a result of the maturing of the brain and does not pay enough attention to the role of the environment or other factors that might shape gender. For this reason the theory is referred to as a machine reductionist approach as it’s focus is entirely on thought processing which is likened to the workings of a machine like a computer.

The theory is very good at describing what the child can think about but is not good at explaining why

Psychodynamic and Cognitive theory both argue that gender identity is formed at a particular stage in the development of the child. For Psychodynamic theory the phallic stage of development begins at the age of 3 and is complete at the age of 5 years. According to the Cognitive approach gender formation begins with the gender identity stage at 2 years of age and is usually completed in the constancy stage at about 7 years of age although gender identity can change over a life time.

Whereas the Cognitive view does distinguish between sex and gender the Biologists do not. Biologists argue that the process of gaining gender identity begins during pre-foetal development and finishes during puberty. In contrast, Cognitive Development theory argues that the gender identity process does not begin until the age of about two and is generally complete at about the age of seven but can last a life time.

16 of 20

The Psychodynamic Explanation

  • Psychodynamic theory distinguishes between sex and gender and according to this theory; the process of gender formation is the result of a combination of biological forces and the environment.
  • The process of gender identity begins and ends between the ages of five and six and from this point on gender identity cannot be changed.
  • Freud maintained that during the first five to six years of a child’s life they pass through three distinct psycho-sexual stages of development, the oral anal and phallic stages.
  • Adult personality and identity is shaped then by the various conflicts (and their resolution by the ego) experienced during these stages.
17 of 20

The Phallic stage (3-5 years)

libidinal energy is now concentrated in the genitals and because the superego has yet to develop, boys and girls discover that playing with their genitals is pleasurable.

The Oedipus Complex (boys):

  • develops strong desire for mother
  • boy feels hostility towards father whom he sees as comprtition for mother's affection.
  • boy thinks that if his father finds out, he will take away his penis. (castration anxiety).
  • boy represses or gives up feelings for mother and identifies father as a gender role model.

The Elektra Complex (girls)

  • penis envy.
  • recognises the phallus as a symbol of power.
  • thinks that she is castrated and powerless and so is her mother
  • loathes her mother for making her incomplete.
  • turns penis envy into penis baby project
  • partly identifies herself as a woman with her mother as her role model.
18 of 20

Supporting empirical evidence

The Case of Little Hans (Freud 1909)

At the age of four and three quarters he developed a phobia of large white horses that wore black blinkers and had black around the mouth. He was terrified to leave the house and he believed that the horses might bite him or fall down.

At the time the phobia began Hans mother was pregnant and Hans had also witnessed an incident when a large horse had fallen down and ended up lying on its back with its feet in the air.

Freud interpreted Hans anxiety as part of the Oedipus Complex. Hans felt love for his mother who was carrying his father’s child. The white horse represented his father who had dark eyes and a full dark beard. His fear of horses falling down was interpreted as Hans unconscious wish to see his father dead because of his fear of being castrated by his father.

All of the data regarding Hans was relayed second hand to Freud via letters from Hans father

There are numerous other explanations of Little Hans behaviour that are more creditable

19 of 20

Evaluative comments

It highlights the role of psychic tension and the unconscious which suggests that the passage to acquiring gender identity can for some be a difficult time.

For Psychodynamic theory gender identity is initiated and complete between 3-5 years which compares to the Biologist’s view that formation begins in pre-foetal development and is completed at puberty for (result of sex hormones). Other approaches suggest the process is much longer than the Psychodynamic approach suggests

Both Cognitive and Psychodynamic theory believe that gender develops in stages. For Cognitive theory the stages are gradual (between 2-7 years of age). whereas for Psychodynamic theory gender formation begins and ends quickly between 3-5 years. Cognitive theory would also criticise the Psychodynamic approach for over emphasising the role of the unconscious and under estimating the child’s conscious thoughts. Psychodynamic theory sees the role of parents as crucial in gender identity formation. This is rejected by SLT who argue that children can learn their gender from other same sex role models.

20 of 20




Very helpful revision cards, thanks Phillipa!

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Gender resources »