Core Theory: Biological Approach
- Believes that gender is decided at the same time as their sex - at conception.
- It's the chromosomes that decide the sex of a person: XX - female, XY - male.
- 6 weeks into pregnancy the sex chromosomes begin to take effect on the development on the gonads.
- The Y chromosome creates a male foetus, which develops testes. Because there is no Y chromosome for females they will automatically develop ovaries.
- Testes produce testosterone, which make boys more aggressive, increase mathematical capabilities, and improve spatial skills.
- Ovaries produce oestrogen, which makes girls more sensitive and improves verbal skills.
- It is thought that females are coyer (choosier) than males in terms of mating. Females only have about 400 eggs so they don't want to waste them on a poor mate. Whereas males produce millions of sperm per day, hence them being less choosier and more promiscuous.
- The B.A. ignores the idea that gender roles may be learnt.
- If all men and all women are biologically similar then why do the 2 sexes show such a range of behaviours.
- Biology is fixed, yet gender roles can change.
Alternative Theory: Psychodynamic Approach
The psychodynamic approach argues that gender is more to do with upbringing, and partially focuses on the role of parents.
- Freud believed that children develop in stages: between the age of 3 to 6 years, a child develops a strong attachment to the opposite sex parent.
- This causes problems with their relationship: in boys, the Oedipus complext, and in girls, the Electra complex.
- Oedipus - Boy are afraid of their father's finding out about their desire for their mother. They fear that their father will be angry and castrate them (castration anxiety). This is resolved when boys identify with their father and continue to develop a masculine identity.
- Electra - Girls desire their father because they desire a penis (penis envy). They blame their mothers for not having this and believe they have been castrated already. Instead, they desire a baby once they realise they can't have a penis. They then realise they are in the same position as their mothers and begin to identify with them - developing a feminine gender identity.
This all occurs in the unconcious mind, but has a big influence on our actions. If a parent is not around, or a weak role model, then the child's gender identity may not correctly develop.
Core Study: Diamond & Sigmundson
The study aimed to show that a child cannot be socialised to take on the role of the opposite sex.
- Procedure - The boy was one of a pair of twins from Canada in 1965. When they were 8 months old, the bots went to the hospital for a routine circumcision operation. However, Bruce (a twin) suffered an accident, where most of his penis was burnt off. Reconstruction wasn't an option during this time period. His parents took the advice from a psychologist, and raised their boy as a girl.
- When Bruce was 17 his testes were removed, and he was named Brenda by his parents who then on treated him as a girl.
- Results - It was reported that Brenda had adpated well to her new gender role initially. However, once Brenda reached puberty there were problems, she needed to be given hormones to give her a feminine shape. She was still described as having a masculine appearance and mannerisms - later reporting she felt like a man inside (finding girls attractive and rejecting boys)
- Limitations - The case study relies on small samples, so it's difficult to generalise.
- Naturally occuring situations may impact the study (variables).
- Researcher became too involved in what he was studying, may have reduced accuracy.
Application of Research
Equal opportunities for the sexes:
If males and females naturally have different strengths or abilities then there is little we can do about this. However, if males and females are born more or less the same then they could potentially achieve the same kinds of things.
Equal opportunities in education:
If males and females are essentially the same then all we need to do is give them the same opportunities to succeed. If one sex has a natural disadvantage over the other then positive discrimination may need to be put in place: such as extra reading resources for boys if the struggled more than the opposite sex. At this point in time females do better than males at both GCSE and A-Level, but if there's no gender differences what causes this "gender gap"? Before the 1980's this was the other way round. Leading people to believe that girls are now taught to do better at school than boys, or that the school curriculum now takes into account girls' natural interest and abilities more than before.
Equal opportunities in work:
Men seem to do better in the workplace despite females educational results. This is in term of promotions and pay. This may suggest that there's a need for equal opportunities in the workplace.