Gender Development



  • Sex is a biological term referring to whether someone is male or female
  • Gender is a psychological term referring to whether someone is masculine, feminine or androgynous
  • Masculine behaviours are traits associated with being male, and feminine behaviours are associated with being female
  • Androgyny is when individuals display high levels of both masculine and feminine behaviours
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  • If gender is the product of nature, then it is innate and biological
  • If gender is the product of nurture, then it is learnt from the environment
  • Cultural variations in gender related behaviour suggests that gender roles are dependant on environmental experiences and therefore are a product of nurture and learning
  • Individuals may learn their gender roles as a consequence of sex-role stereotyping
  • Despite strong evidence supporting the role of nurture in gender development, there is also convincing evidence to support the role of nature
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  • Biological explanations support the role of nature in gender development, whereas SLT supports the role of nurture. Cognitive and psychodynamic explanations consider the role of both nature and nurture
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  • The biological theories explain gender in terms of innate factors related to the sex of a person
  • Males and females have different patterns of sex chromosomes (XY for males and ** for females). Different genes trigger different levels of hormones which affect brain and behaviour. A high level of androgens (including testerone) makes males more masculine, while a high level of oestrogens makes females more feminine
  • Evidence shows that consistent differences between male and female brains may account for gender differences. In addition, hormonal changes (whether manipulated or natural) appear to affect gender-related behaviours
  • Turner's syndrome (XO) and Klinefelter's syndrome (**Y) are atypical chromosome patterns. They demonstrate the effects of chromosomes on gender, as individuals with these disorders behave differently from typical males and females
  • The biological explanations are accused of being too deterministic, too reductionist, and for ignoring the effects of culture and socialisation
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  • SLT explains gender development in terms of learning experiences
  • Individuals develop gender by identifying with people who model gender behaviour for them. This behaviour is imitated and continues to be displayed if it is reinforced
  • Numerous studies have shown that people of all ages imitate gender-appropriate behaviour. Observations have shown that gender-appropriate behaviour is reinforced by many groups in society, including parents, peers, the meaid, teachers and work colleagues
  • SLT has difficulty explaining cases where an individual's gender identity is at odds with their environmental experiences. A lot of its evidence may also not reflect real life
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  • The cognitive approach focuses on the thinking behind gender development
  • Kohlberg's cognitive-developmental theory suggests children's gender develops through 3 stages: gender identity (where they can label their own and others' sex); gender stability (where they understand their sex stays the same forever) and gender constancy (where they understand that each person's sex is constant regardless of time and situation)
  • Gender schema theory argues that children develop gender as early as 2 years of age when they begin to categorise and make sense of the world in terms of gender-appropriate behaviour
  • Cognitive theories tend to describe rather than explain, and critics are concerned that the theories do not pay enough attention to factors that individuals have little control over e.g. biology, social context
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  • The psychodynamic approach explains gender development as occuring in stages driven by unconscious forces
  • Boys experience the Oedipus complex where they desire their mother but fear castration by their father as a result
  • Girls experience the Electra complex where they desire their father but fear losing their mother's love as a result
  • Both sexes resolve these conflicts by identifying with the same sex parent at the age of about 5/6
  • Freud presented the case of Hans as evidence of the Oedipus complex. Hans fear of horses represented his fear of his father
  • Psychodynamic theories are generally unscientific and lack convincing evidence
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Turners syndrome sufferers act normally, they just have a few physical characteristics which are sometimes noticeable x

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