Gender Development

Biological Approach to GD


  • Emphasises role of chromosome an hormones in GD, strongly support nature
  • Men and women are innately different an bc possess different chromosomes that trigger the release of different hormones, lead to differences in behaviour. Allows perform different roles in reproduction, ensuring the survival of their genes and species
  • Sex is determined by chromosomal makeup of the sperm that fertilises the egg. If the sperm carries the Y chromosome the embryo is male (XY) ,the X chromosome the embryo is female (**). The Y chromosome contains the gene for the body to develop male gonads in testes, the absence of this gene means ovaries automatically develop.
  • Sex hormones have a psychological effect, imply brains develop differently. Once testes/ovaries develop, release sex hormone androgens and oestrogens), have effect on pre-natal development of the brain. M+F foetuses produce different amounts of different hormones, could imply brains develop differently, account for psychological differences between sexes. E.g sex differences found in cerebral hemispheres of the brain, explains findings females develop superior fine motor skills while men develop superior mathematical skills
  • Atypical chromosome patterns (Turners and Klienfelters syndrome) have effect on behaviour.
1 of 23

Biological GD 2


  • Maccoby and Jacklin - boys like mechanical objects, girls like faces
  • Van Goozen- transexuals
  • Waber - puberty


  • Implication that brains develop differently, account for psychological differences etween sexes
  • Findings about structural differences relate to differences in sexual behaviour
  • Studies showing the hormonal affects on behaviour
  • Evident atypical chromosome patterns have effect on behaviour, often related to gender. Demonstrates strong association between hormones and GD


  • Reductionist - belief complex systems can be exploited in terms of their components
  • Deterministic - belief gender is pre-determined bc of biology
2 of 23

Biological GD - Van Goozen

A - Investigate effects of sex hormones on behaviour

P - Transexuals undergoing hormone treatment (hormone of opposite sex). Given tests to complete before treatment and 3 months later

F - Male to female = decrease in aggression and visual-spatial skills, inc verbal fluency (female to male opposite)

C - Suggests hormones do effect gender related behaviours

C - Not controlled experiment, may be result of un-controlled variables

3 of 23

Biological GD - Maccoby and Jacklin , and Waber

Maccoby and Jacklin- Psychological effects of hormones - Boys like mechanical objects, girls like faces

Waber - Hormonal effects on behaviour - Investigated effects of sex hormones in puberty on verbal ability. Found late maturing boys better verbal ability

4 of 23

Biological GB - Atypical chromosome patterns

Turner's Syndrome - Individuals identify themselves as female. Have similar interests/behaviours to normal females. Suggests feminine gender identity can develop in the absence of ovaries and oestrogen they produce

Atypical chromosome pattern = XO  Sex Identity = Female  

Physical characteristics = absence of ovaries (sterile) and webbed neck   Psychological characteristic = Lower mathematical ability, difficulty relating to peers

Klienfelter's - Have ** combinatio associated with nomal females but anatomically male. Shows importance of Y chromosome in triggering formation of male structure

Atypical chromosome pattern = **Y   Sex Identity = Male

Physical characteristics = Undescended testes, some breast development  Psychological characteristics = Lack of interest in sex, poor language and reading ability

5 of 23

Psychological Approach to GD


  • Focuses on unconcious elements of GD. Maintains gender develops instinctively (nature) but childhood experiences (nurture) moderate this
  • Establish our gender identity in early childhood as move through age related stages of development and resolve conflicts along the way, part of healthy psychological developments (should occur at 5yrs old)
  • Man force behind a childs GD = relationship with parents, Oedipus and Electra complexes
  • Identification


  • Freuds psychoanalytic theory behind GD = relationship with parents
  • Little Hans
6 of 23

Psychodynamic GD - Stages of development

Age              Stage    Description

Up to 1 yrs  Oral   GI flexible, no clear differences between girls and boys, both focus on seeking pleasure through mouth, breast feeding

1-3yrs          Anal      Seek pleasure through anus, no real sense of being masculine or feminine

3-5yrs         Phallic   Understanding of gender begins to change. Child seeks pleasure playing with genitals. Begin to pay attention to others genitals, aware of physical differences btween men and women. Start developing a gender identity

Part of Freuds psychoanalytic theory - we move through number of age related stages of development, encountering conflicts which need to be resolved at each stage, in order to acheive healthy psychological development

Est our GI, part of healthy psychological development (should occru 5ys old)

7 of 23

Psychodyamics GD - Oedipus and Electra complexes

Oedipus (3yrs old)

  • Conflict all boys experience when develop desire for own mother. Arises because boys want to posess mother for themsevles but sees father as rival who stands in his way, become jealous
  • Wish father dead but also fear them so develop castration anxiety - afraid father will discover desire for mother and punish them by removing penis. Recognise father more powerful than them
  • Believe mother has already been castration by father so threat appears real
  • Overall, conflict between boys lust for mother and hostility towards father


  • Girls in phallic stage of development experience conflict betwee desire for father and resentmnt towards mother. Realise men have penis, feel cheated because dont and blame mother for this
  • Experience penis envy, discover cant have one so substitue with desire for a baby. Want father to provide baby so lust for faher. Girls anxious about mother finding out about feelings for fathr, fear losin mother's love
8 of 23

Psychodynamic GD - Identification

  • Way to resolve conflicts is to identify (adopt their values and attitudes) with same sex parent. Doing this, develop superego (allows us to adopt moral of parents) and adopt their gender identity. Begin behave similarly to parent
  • Boys use defence mechanisms of repression to push feelings into unconcious, reducing tension between father and son and threat of castration
  • Girls identify with mother, retaining mothers love. Also by internalising mothers role, unconciously hoping to still attract father
9 of 23

Pychodynamics GD - Freud Litte Hans

A - Demonstrate Oedipus complex

P - Hans phobia of horses. Father wrote about sons development, to be interpreted

F - Correspondance showed afraid large white horses with black blinkers and black round mouth

C - Phobia outward expression of his unconcious castration anxiety. Fear horses displaced his fear of his father (wore dark glasses and dark beard). Mother pregnant, jealous

C - Difficult to generalise. Accus researcher bias - interpret case to support theory. Never met Hans, unreliable. More valid explanation - Hans witnessed accident between horse and cart before onset of phobia.

10 of 23

Psychodynamic GD 2


  • Explains how the conflicts we experience as a child are resolved by identifying with same sex parent and adopting their gender role


  • Freud wrote complex theories at time when both parents lived with their children. Cases where parent absent, child unable to experience comple therefore not in a position to reslve conflict necesary to development of GI
  • Hard to falsify
11 of 23

Cognitive Approach GD


  • Focus on the mind and how individuals think about their gender, gender identity develops as part of an innate process (nature) but concepts of gender depend on family and cultural experiences (nurture)
  • Gender role is a product of gender identity and understand how gender develops must understand mental processes
  • Cognitive development theory
  • Gender schema theory


  • Kohlbergs cognitive developmental theory
  • Monroe - Universal - Kohlberg
  • Mconahey - Kohlberg see through clothes
  • Marcus and Overton - Kohlberg
  • Martin and Halverson - Gender Schema
12 of 23

Cognitive GD - Kholberg's Cognitive Developmental

  • Childrens minds develop in set stages broadly related to age. Apply GD = child's understading of their gender will increas in line with their cogntive abilities
  • Children young - understanding of world (and gender) is basic. Older, understanding more sophisticated
  • Believed stages universal and go thorugh at similar ages. Difference = may learn different things about what it is to be masculine/feminine (depends on cultural norms)

Stage of development  Age   Decription

Gender Identity (2-3yrs) Children begin to think about gender. Able to identify their own sex and others. Gender just label, associate certain characteristics with different sexes. Interest in playing with opposite sex

Gender Stability (3-4yrs)  Understand ownsex is stable. Still ego-centric, cant apply to other people. Fooled by appearance still = sex determined by behaviour

Gender Constancy (4-7yrs) Understand everyone's sex is contant. Not fooled by outward appearance, doesnt change how feel inside. Understand whether somone masculine/feminine has no bearing on their sex. Use genitals as a way of determining sex. (continued)

13 of 23

Cognitive Appraoch GD - Kolberg ctd and Gender Sch

(ctd) Begin actively seeking role models, imitate and internalise their behaviour to help them develop their sense of gender

Gender schema theory - Emphasises importance of children actively seeking gender-related info. Disagrees with Kohlberg as believe is acheived before gender constancy

  • Once child establishes their gender identity, they search environment for info to help them develop their gender schemas
  • As build up of schemas in mind, helps them interpret and organise what's happening in the world.
  • First gender schemas form = relate activities associated with each sex. Forming stereotypes and gender scripts (making dinner for females)
  • Once have schemas and scripts, more attention to activities associated with each sex. Gender appropriate behaviour = part of their thinking
  • Information inconsistent with schemas, fail to encode. Info consistent = assimilated into their thinking = allows stereotypes remain intact
  • 6 yrs = developed sophisticated set of associations for their own gender
  • 8010yrs = equally sophisticated view of opposite gender
14 of 23

Cognitve GD - Marcus and Overton

Support Kohlberg

A - Showed as children get older, develop gender constancy

P - 3 year groups - 5-6, 6-7, 7-8yrs. Shown puzzle with male/female characters. Change hair etc. Tried different combinations e.g boy in dress and asked what they though the sex of the character was

F = When photos of themselves used, younger kids demonstrated gender constancy but older kids showed gender constancy when both their own and other characters appearance changed

c = Younger kids only just at gender constancy stage, understand own sx stblae, older understand sex alwyas stable

C - Artifical task, lack ecological validity

15 of 23

Cogntive GD - Monroe, McConaghy

Monroe - Children accross the world went through Kohlergs stages, supports theory of universality

McConaghy - Showed children pictures with see through clothes, genitals visible. Younger kids handnt reached gender constancy yet, recognised gender by appearance not genitals

16 of 23

Cogntive GD - Martin and Halverson (Gender schema)

A - Demonstrate childrn distort inconsistent information to fit their gender schemas

P - 5-6yr olds shown pictures of people carrying out activities. Sometimes schema consistent (e.g girls play with dolls)

F- Recall test a week later. Schema- consistent ictures good. Inconsistent often distorted so expected sex is remembered as carrying out actiity (e.g boy playing with gun than girl)

C - Children use chemas to help make sense of the world sometimes reorganise info to fit schemas

C - Construct validity- may have simply forgotten

17 of 23

Cognitive GD 2


  • Explains how gender develops
  • Takes into account cultural differences have an effect e.g Monroe
  • Use schemas to help make sense of the world


  • Describes but doesn't really explain GD e.g why does gender begin to develop aged 2?
18 of 23



  • Sees gender roles as being learnt from others, strongly supports nurture
  • No psychological difference between males and females when we are born, gender differences develop because of the way society treats the different sexes
  • Individuals learn about gender-appropriate behaviour through life by modelling and imitation, reproduction and motivation
  • Socially construct what it is to be masculine/feminine (can change overtime and vary between societies)


  • Idle - Father and son play girl toy
  • Eccles - Teachers praise
  • Smith and Lloyd
19 of 23

SLt GD - Acquistition and Performance of Gender Ro

2 conditions to aquiring a behaviour =   Attention and Retention

Learn gender from people we come into contact with as all of which are potental models


  • When models peform certain activities, they are moelling behaviour, gives others the opportunity to learn from them.
  • Dont copy all models. Become role models when identify with them
  • Level of identification affected by factors such as power, popularity, attractiveness

Performance of Gender Roles. Learns their gender role by acting in ways seen models acting. 2 conditons = Reproduction and Motivation

Imitation - occurs when behaviour is reproduced. More likely to imitate someone identify with. Need self efficacy to imitate that behaviour. Also motivated by reinforcement.

If a behaviour is well rehearsed its internatilsed and beomes an intergrated part of persons personality. GI made up of behaviours learnt through imitation and reinforcement. Once have GI, dictate behaviours display in future

20 of 23

SLT GD - Smith and Lloyd

A - Investigated whether mother acted diff towars baby depending on its perceived sex

P - Told mothers to investigating play. Video- taped playing 6month year olds. Sex-typed and sex-neutral toys available. Some presented as their own sex, oters in stereotyped clothes and names of opp sex

F- Babies percieved as boys recieved more encouragement to play actively. Girls offered dolls. Boys hammers initially

C - Mothers involved in the process of differential treatment of boys and girls. Boys learn to be strong and athletic through sex type play. Type play not dictated by the child, content play with anything

C - Independent group design used, may be down to individual differences between participants. Lack construct validity, narrowly measured 'first toy offered and 'length toy used'. Temporal validity - done in 70s, todays socity may not show same level of stereotyping

21 of 23

SLT GD- Futher studies

Studies support Gender- Appropriate behaviour learnt throughout lifetime and variety of sources

Idle et al - Fathers reacted more negatively to their sons feminine toy play than mothers

Eccles - Teachers praise boys for academic achievement and girls for tidyness and compliance

Studies support Idividual identifies more wih sam-sex models=


22 of 23



  • Explains cultural variation in gender related behaviour


  • Doesn't take into account biology - Reductionist
  • Fails explain where gender stereotypes come from initially
  • Gender stereotypes similar cross culture = nature
23 of 23


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Gender resources »