The biosocial approach to gender development

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Biosocial Theories - A01

The biosocial approach - an approach that encompasses both biological and social influences it places more emphasis on social factors ...GANGESTAD et al noted that there are two facts to consider in relation to gender. (1) there are significant universals (bio) in gender behaviour and (2) there are significant cultural (social) variations in gender differences.

MONEY AHD EHRHARDT...Believed Once a biological male or female is born, social labelling and differential treatment of boys and girls interact with biological factors (such as prenatal exposure to testosterone) to steer development.

This theory was an attempt to intergrate the influences of nature and nurture. The sex of rearing is a pivotal point in gender development. Biology is likely to determine sex of rearing as a baby is sexed at birth and everything else follows that.  However as we have seen, some individuals are INTERSEXES and may be mistyped at birth. Money and Ehrhardt predicted that, if a genetic male is mislabelled as a girl and treated as a girl before the age of 3, he would acquire the gender identity of a girl. Thus the key to gender development is what label they are given.

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Biosocial Theory - A02

Lack of evidence... As studied in the Evolutionary apporach, Money and Ehrhardts theory took a significant blow from the outcome of the DAVID RIEMER study (BRUCE/BRENDA) which they had hoped would be definitive evidence in favour of the importance of sex typing.

Sample bias... Money and Ehrhart had collected other evidence to support their theory yet it was still all derived from the study of abnormal individuals, such as the study of genetic females exposed to male hormones prenatally because of drugs taken by their mothers. Such evidence may not be RELATED to understanding normal gender development.

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Social Role Theory - A01

Eagly and Wood 

Selective pressures do not cause both physical and psychological differences; they only cause physical differences and these lead to sex roles allocations which in turn create psychological sex differences. This means that psychological sex differences are seen as the concequence of the different roles to which men and women are assigned rather than vise versa - the evolutionary view suggests that social roles grow out of biologically determined psychological differences. 

Division of labour... Social role theory argues that biologically-based physical differences between men and women (men=stronger and women=bear children) allow them to perform certain tasks more effiiciently.

In addition to social role theory, in societies where strength is not always required for occupational roles outside the home/society where there is alternative care for children, social roles will be more similar between men and women, and psychological differences reduced.

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Social Role Theory - A01

Mate choice...Social role theory propose that what men and women seek in a parter can be related to their social roles rather than to the reporductive value of certain trait (evolutionary view). The physical differences between men and women create social roles --> Men are the providers and women take on a domestic role. Women maximise their outcomes by selecting a man who is a good wage earner , and men maximise their outcome by seeking a mate who is successful in domestic role. Therefore, different social roles can explain sex differences in mate choice 

Hormonal differences... Eagly and Wood have further suggested that hormal differences between men and women may be the outcome of social roles and psychological sex differences rather than the cause. For example they propose that the male hormone testosterone is not the cause of greater male versus female aggressiveness, but instead it is the effect of the fact men (because of strength) engage in more athletic and competitive events and this creates higher levels of testosterone than in women 

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Social Role Theory - A02

The social role theory is an alternative to the evolutionary approach. There is no doubt that social factors are important in gender development, and that, increasingly, such influences have reduced the division between male and female gender role...

...However LUXEN argues that evolutionary theory can explain this and provide a simpler theory which is preferable for a number of reasons:

---Selective pressures: Luxen argues the behaviour is at least as important as physical charateristicm and therefore selective pressure would act differently on behaviour to create psychological as well as physical sex differences

----Sex differences without socialisation. Luxen also points to research that has shown that very young children and animals display sex differences - these must be biological rather than psychological because sex role socialisation is unlikely to have occured

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Social Role Theory - A02


( studied 37 cultures) found that in all cultures, men prefer younger, physically attractive women (more fertile), whereas women seek men with resources ( to make child rearing easier)  EAGLY AND WOOD explain this as (1) men want younger women because they are more OBEDIENT (2) women frequently earn less than men and therefore seek a partners with resources.

This is also supported by.. EAGLY AND WOOD who found, for example, that in situations where women have higher status Buss' sex differences were LESS prononced. This supports the idea that social role are the driving force in psychological sex differences.

HOWEVER... This conclusion was challenged by GANGESTAD et al was re-analyed Eagly and Wood's data, controlling for factors such as affluence and social structure. They concluded that traditional evolutionary is adequate as it provides a better explanation for the joint effects of biology and culture.

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A03 - Social constructionist approach

S: The approach taken by Eagly and Wood is a social constructionist one.

E: An approach which suggests that much of human behaviour is an intervention or outcome of a particular society or culture. There is no objective reality, such as a real difference between men and women - or if there is one, its not really relavant.

E: According to this approach, behaviours are best understood in terms of the social context in which they occur.

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A03 - Reductionist

S: The biosocial approach does not explain cognitive differences such as the understandinf of gender iden. and gender dysphoria

E: As gender development should not be considered solely as reliant on nature and nurture and to fully understand this complicated process it much more fitting to consider the interaction of the two to avoid reductionism.

E: The biosocial theory does consider the roles of both nature and nurture, it puts more emphasis on nurture and therefore it may be more fitting to find a theory that considers the two equally.  

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