Psychology - The Biosocial approach

The biosocial approach to gender development

  • Created by: rachel
  • Created on: 09-05-12 09:45


The biosocial approach states that gender is determined due to two factors:

  • Biological factors
  • Social factors

Biological factors: Genes (** or XY chromosomes) and Hormones (Testosterone/Oestrogen)

Social factors: The influence of Parents/Peers/the Media and social labelling

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Biological Approach (AO1)

Gender is determined during the prenatal development of the foetus

Children are given ** (female) or XY (male) chromosomes which determine their gender for the future


  • Dr Money - David Reimer case study
  • Attempted to make David a female using social reinforcement to convince him that he was a female (renamed David as "Brenda")
  • Failed to make David feel that he was a female
  • David ignored Dr Money as early as age 9-11
  • Returned to living as a man at 15
  • Proved that genetics are more successful in gender labelling than social factors
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Biological Approach (AO2)

Dr Money's research was highly criticsed:

  • Ethical issue: protection of participant (Money took innaproppraite photos of David and his twin brother, Brian)
  • Low ecological validity: unique case study and the tragic deaths of the twins showed that it was not applicable to normal situtations and also not replicable
  • Helps use to understand the importance of the nature/nurture debate
  • Longitudinal study: description of the twins across different and critical points of their lives. The twins were studied for over 13 years and we can tell exactly when David began to feel male again (9-11 years)
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Psychological/Social Approach (AO1)

Gender is determined by social influences on a child

  • Parents, peers and the media all have impact on the child during its postnatal development - treated differently depending on their genitals

Children learn their behaviour through observing same-sex models and being rewarded for demonstrating sex-appropirate behaviour (reinforcement)


  • Bandura's Social Learning Theory
  • Children replicated the actions of an adult
  • Bobo dolls
  • Children are directly influenced by both the media and the behaviour of adults
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Psychological/Social Approach (AO2)


  • Bandura: all the children were age 5 meaning there is considerable age bias. Also, by this age, the children would have already developed gender stability according to Kohlbergs theory of gender.
  • Lab experiment: low ecological validity as the children would not have been exposed to these types of programme before


  • Rubin et al: children are sterotyped from birth: parents described babies of similar age, weight and size as 'strong' and 'coordinated' if they were male but 'weak' and 'delicate' if they were female


  • Pomerlau: parents paint girls bedrooms pink and give them dolls but paint boys bedrooms blue and make them play with trucks
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Biosocial Approach

More reliable as it considers the research of both the biological and social approaches to gender development:

  • It's not deterministic
  • It is not reductionist
  • Understands that genes AND the influence of parents/peer/media are equally important
  • Broad range of material and support
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