Sex and Gender

A* - G syllabus

  • Created by: Thunder12
  • Created on: 08-04-18 20:29

Key Concepts

Sex: a biological term that tells us if an individual is male or female

Gender: A psychological term that tells us if an individual is masculine or feminine or androgynous

Masculine: A gender term associated with male traits/roles

Feminine: A gender term associated with female traits/roles

Androgynous: A type of gender where an individual shows high levels of both masculine and feminine traits.

Although sex and gender are often related, this is not always the case. It is possible for an individual to be female but display masculine behaviour. Similarly, an individual can be male but show feminine behaviour. This is why it is important to distinguish sex and gender.

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Core Theory

Biological Theory - Sex and gender determined by the body’s biology.

  • Chromosomes: males have XY and females have **
  • Gonads: males become testes and females become ovaries
  • Hormones: main male hormone is testosterone and main female hormone is oestrogen
  • Skills: Males become better equipped for spatial skills and females for verbal skills
  • Behaviour: males more aggressive and females more sensitive.

Human behaviour is instinctive in order to survive and reproduce.

Our biology affects our behaviour in order to promote the survival of our species (e.g. males are aggressive to compete for resources and females are sensitive to raise their young)

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Criticisms of the Core Theory

Biological Theory

  • Ignores the idea that gender roles may be learnt.
  • Can not explain the wide range of behaviours within a sex.
  • Does not explain how gender roles can change across cultures.
  • Does not explain how gender roles can change over time.
  • The theory is reductionist
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Alternative Theory

Psychodynamic approach – Freud

  • Between the ages of three to six the child identifies with the opposite sex parent, however this causes problems for their relationship with the same sex parent.
  • Through Oedipus complex (boys) and Electra complex (girls) the child comes to identify with their same sex parent and develop their gender role.
  • Boys experience castration anxiety – they fear their father will learn of their love for the mother, and castrate them (cut off their penis)
  • Girls experience penis envy – they believe their mother has cut off their penis and they are envious of their father for having one.
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Core Study

Diamond and Sigmoundson (1997)

  • Researched the case of a boy (Bruce)who had been raised as a girl
  • Regular circumcision had gone wrong and the boy’s penis had been cut off.
  • Raised as a girl by his parents under the advice of psychologist named Money who believed your gender was determined by how you were raised
  • When Bruce was 17mths testes were removed and renamed Brenda, raised as a girl


  • At first Brenda adapted to her new gender role well
  • When she reached puberty needed hormones to grow breasts etc, but was said to still have masculine appearance and mannerisms.
  • Brenda later reported she felt like a man inside. Was told at 13 by her parents the truth about her gender and she decided to liver her life as a man (David) from then on.

Concluded that David’s chromosomes outweighed the attempts to raise him as a girl (nature rather than nurture)

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Criticisms of the Core Study

Small sample – data not reliable or generalisable outside of this case

Case studies based on naturally occurring events so cannot control key variables

Case study researchers can become very involved and stop being objective (scientific) in their observations and only see what they need to or want to see

Gender bias – only tested on one boy

Reductionist – could Brenda have been learning masculine behaviour from her brother?

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In the work place

  • Seems that men get more promotions and more money than women in work place. 
  • Important for sexes to be treated equally and fairly.

In education

  • Although no biological difference in intelligence, girls do better at verbal subjects (English, drama, languages)
  • Boys do better at practical subjects (PE, DT, Maths).
  • Girls generally higher achievers than boys.
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