Sex and Gender Theories

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Core Theory: Biological Approach

Chromosomes - XX or XY

Gonad development at 6 weeks - male or female

Testes - Testosterone

Ovaries - Oestrogen

Evolutionary instincts - Difference in gender roles between sexes

Masculine, feminine and androgyous


  • Ignores ideas that gender roles can be learnt
  • Does not explain the wide variety of behaviours between the sexes
  • Gender roles can change over time
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Alternative Theory: Psychodynamic Approach

Freud's stage of between 3 and 6 years old

Children learn gender roles from the opposite sex parent

If parent is not around gender roles will not fully develop properly

They identify with a parent of the same sex to learn behaviours that they are showing

This happens in our unconcious mind


Boys: Oedipus Complex --> Castration Anxiety

Girls: Electra Complex --> Penis Envy - Wants a baby instead

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Core Study: Diamond and Sigmundson 1997

Case Study to show that a child cannot be socialised to take on the role of the opposite sex

  • Researched into the case of David Reimer and conducted interviews
  • Twins were born in Canada in 1965
  • Bruce suffered an accident when they were having a circumcision at 8 months
  • Dr Money suggested that he should be raised as a girl
  • At 17 months he had his testes removed and Brenda was brought up as a girl
  • Initially, Dr Money said that she had adapted well to the gender change
  • At 13, she was told what happened as she was having difficulties during puberty
  • She decided to change back to being a man and call himself David
  • David's chromosomes had outweighed the attempts to socialise him as a girl
  • Limitations:
  • Case Studies have a small sample and cannot be generalised to the whole population
  • Case Studies cannot control key variables such as having a twin brother
  • The researchers may have become too involved in the research and stop being objective - Trying to record what they want rather than what actually happens in Dr Money's case
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Application of Research: Equal Opportunities

Important in real life situations:

Both sexes need the same opportunities to succeed or do they need separate requirements?

Using positive discrimination to create better opportunities for the disadvantaged sex

Schools can help students more in subjects that they are not as biologically as good as

Gender Gap in education - Girls doing better than boys in exams

Socialisation - females are urged to do better in school

Employees are paid more and have more promotions if they are male than female - should there be a fairer system for this?

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