psychology - gender

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  • Created by: bethany
  • Created on: 13-05-13 11:27

Cultural influences on gender roles

Cultural studies are conducted to identify the role of our biology and environment, if biology is a major factor in our gender development then we would expect to see the same similarities between culturs however if the environment is the main influence on our gender identity we would expect to find some difference between cultures and societies. 

Within the world there are two types of cultures; individualist, which tends to be a western country, such as the UK, or a collectivist country, where members of the culture are interested in the group's interests.

Mead conducted research into the role of our biology and environment. She conducted a study of social groups in Papua New Guinea by living with the groups for a period of 6 months, providing evidence of cultural role differences. She found that the Arapesh men and women were both gentle and co-operative. The Mundugumor men and women were violent and aggressive, seeking power and position. By contrast the Tchambuli exhibited gender role differences: the women were dominant, whereas the men were emotional dependent. 

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Cultural influences on gender roles

Other research has suggested that gender roles are organised in similar ways across a range of different traditional cultures. 11 non western societies were focused on and it was found that girls were encouraged to spend more time with their mothers and they were also more likely to be involved with domestic chores. In contrast, boys were found to spend more time with their fathers and to be assigned tasks which involved being outside, for example herding cattle. This suggests that as the findings were similar cross culturally it is in fact out biology that established our gender roles.

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Cultural influences on gender roles (A02)

Whiting et al provides supporting research into the idea that it is out biology that establishes our gender roles. He conducted cross cultural research in six different cultures, in both developed countries and developing countries. It was found that there were key differences between boys and girls which were consistent across the six different cultures. Girls showed more nurturing behaviours compared to boys who showed more dominance. As the results were similar cross culturally this supports the idea that it is out biology that develops gender roles. However, Whiting’s research also provides supporting research into the idea that the socialisation process also has an influence in our gender identity. It was found that boys were socialised differently to girls; boys spent more time with their fathers, and girls with their mothers. Boys were encouraged to be independent, but girls dependent and obedient, suggesting that out socialisation process influences out gender roles.

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Cultural influences on gender roles (A02)

Therefore, Whiting’s research can be used to explain the discrepancy between research that looks into our biology being the route of our gender role development, with research that looks into the role of our environment and socialisations process in developing gender roles. Using Whiting’s findings we can explain that our biology may be the initial influence of gender role development, which explains the cross cultural similarities. However, the differences in socialisation that were also observed in Whiting’s research may mean that social and cultural influences may be a factor that magnifies these initial gender differences, and explains why there are greater gender differences in countries and cultures where different sexes are socialised differently. Thus our gender role development could be an interaction between both our cultural and biological factors.

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One issue with research into cultural influences on gender roles is often collected by Western reserachers working in a mix of western and non-western cultures, leaving scope for cultural bias. Researchers use tests and other measures developed by western psychologists. Such measures are described as imposed etics. The results of such imposed etics are likely to be meaningless unless conducted with the cultural group for which they are designed. The outcome is that conclusions are produced that are culturally biased in favour of the culture who designed the test. In relation to the theory, this has implications that it may not be able to be applied to non western cultures and is therefore limited in it's applicability. 

N v n - interactionist

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