A2 Psychology - Gender overview

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 17-06-11 09:49

A brief overview of each topic in gender with a couple of studies for each one.

The role of genes and hormones

Males and females are determined by genetic sex. Males have XY chromosomes, and females have ** chromosomes- and there is usually a direct link between genetic sex and external genitalia. During prenatal development, all individuals begin the same; with external genitalia that look essentially feminine. It is the production of hormones that then determine whether the embryo is male or female.

Hormones are produced both prenatally and during adolescence to influence gender development. In prenatal development, some individuals can have abnormal hormone levels that lead to them becoming intersex individuals- this means that their external genitalia is ambiguous, such as when males are exposed to too little testosterone during prenatal development, and when they are born they look externally female. This can be caused by androgen insensitivity disorder, which means that their body tissues do not respond very well to testosterone. This can be shown in the case of the Batista children- they were born genetically male, but looking externally female. They were raised as females, but during pubertyand the ensuing rush of male hormones, their male genitalia appeared.

Quadagno (1977) conducted a study on female monkeys by exposing them to prenatal testosterone, and found that they engaged in more rough and tumble play than other females, and were more aggressive.

Reiner and Gearhart (2004) studied 16 genetic males who were born with almost no penis. 14 of them were raised as males, and by the age of 16, 8 had reassigned themselves as male. The other 2 were raised as male and remained male.

Evolutionary explanations of gender

The evolutionary explanation of gender is described in terms of division of labour. It has been suggested that gender roles in the EEA  were formed by the fact that women would have spent most of their time producing milk, or pregnant, or both, meaning our female ancestors would have been unable to hunt, so they remained at home and were the gatherers and homemakers. If she had spent time hunting, this would have reduced the groups reproductive success. The division in labour is not only a reproductive enhancement, but is also a method of avoiding starvation.

The key to adaptive behaviour is reproductive success, so mate choice is an important factor inthe evolutionary process. Men look for women who are physically attractive (advertising fertility, to ensure healthy offspring), and women look for men with high amounts of resources (who are able to protect and provide for her and her offspring). These different preferences, when combined, both enhance the reproductive success of the group.

E-S theory (empathising and systematizing theory) suggests that women are better at empathising (understanding how people feel), and men are better at systematizing (understanding and building systems). This is an evolutionary advantage as males would need greater precision and understanding than women in order to hunt- and as women would remain at home rearing children…


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