Describe and evaluate the biological approach to gender development

These notes are taken from an essay that I wrote, which got an A

Biological Sex (AO1)

  • Biological sex is determined by chromosomes. A female wil have the chromosomal sex of X X and a male will have XY.
  • There is a direct link between chromosomal sex and external genitalia. All embryos begin with having external genitalia looking relatively feminine but after three months, if the embryo is male they will have the SRY gene which causes their gonads to develop in to testes which produce testosterone. 
  • If it is female, the gonads turn in to ovaries.
  • The biological sex of an individual is a fact about whether they are male or female and this influences gender development.
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Biological Approach (AO2)

  • The biological approach is challenged by Money (1972).
  • He believed that biological factors are not important in gender development and that upbringing had more of an impact.
  • For example,he thought that an individual born as a male would develop a female gender if he was brought up to be a female.
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Bio - David Reimer Case (AO2)

  • The case study about David Reimer refutes Money's beliefs.
  • Reimer was born as a boy but lost most of his penis during a surgery when he was a baby.
  • Dr Money influenced them to bring him up as a girl, as they thought it was be the best for his happiness.
  • It was kept a secret from Reimer but as he got older, he didn't feel comfortable as a girl.
  • He eventually found out the truth and reassigned back to male by age 14.
  • Suggests that genes do have an important influence on gender development.
  • Therefore supports the biological approach.
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Hormones (AO1)

  • Gender development is also influenced by hormones.
  • Male embryos exposed prenatally to testosterone will develop testes and a penis.
  • Females exposed to oestrogen will develop female genitalia.
  • Hormones do not only effect the development of genitalia but also the development of the brain.
  • It is thought that exposure to high amounts of the different sex hormones will influence gender development.
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Hormones (AO1)

  • Hoag (2008), suggested that females are better at social skills and empathising than males but males are better at things such as spatial navigation.
  • It was proposed that this was to do with exposure to sex hormones prenatally.
  • For example, a girl exposed to a large amount of testosterone will have a masculinised brain.
  • Quadagno (1977) found the same using female monkeys. He injected them with testosterone and they engaged in more aggressive play than 'normal' monkeys.
  • This suggests that hormones do influence gender development.
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Hormones (AO2)

  • Research from Deady et al supported the role of hormones.
  • He found that women with high salivary testosterone levels had a lower maternal drive and less desire to have children.
  • This suggests that the male sex hormone masculinised their brains which caused that low maternal drive.
  • Thus, supporting the biological explanation.
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Hormones (AO2)

  • The Batista Boys is a case study that also supports the role of hormones.
  • Imperato-McGinley (1975) looked at four girls from the Dominican Republic who had a genetic defect which meant that they were born with ambiguous genitalia.
  • When they reached 12, they had a surge of testosterone which caused male genitalia to develop.
  • They accepted their new gender and lived normal lives
  • This supports the biological approach as although they were brought up as girls, the hormones caused male genitalia and they reassigned.
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IDA - Batista Boys Case

  • Although the study supports the approach, it is ethnocentric. 
  • This means that is is difficult to generalise it to a wider population as it focuses on specific people from one place who may have reacted differently to others.
  • Suggests that the biological approach cannot be fully accepted as the main influence for gender development.
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IDA - David Reimer

  • This case has many ethical issues.
  • Caused the family psychological damage.
  • But mainly, Dr Money published his theory as a success even though it was not. By doing this he affected the ideas of others in his field of research.
  • Limits the biological approach as it cannot be further researched in this way.
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