Atypical gender development


Gender Identity disorder

  • A small minority of males and females experience a mismatch between their bio sex and their gender identity
  • Individuals with GID identify much more with the opposite sex than the one they were identified as at birth
  • GID is a source of distress and discomfort, it is recognisd as a psychological disorder in DSM-5 
  • Many individuals with GID will identify themselves as transgender

Biological explanations

  • Brain sex theory
    • Suggests that GID is caused by specific brain structures that are incompatible with a person's biological sex
    • Particular attention has been paid to areas of the brain that are dimorphic (take a different form in males and females)
    • Ning Zhou studied the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, which is assumed to be fully developed at age 5 and is around 40% larger in males than females
    • In post-mortem studies of six male-to-female transgender individuals, the BSTc was found to be a similar size to that of a typical female
  • Genetic factors
    • Evidence suggests that GID may have a genetic basis 
    • Coolidge assessed 157 twin pairs for evidence of GID using clinical diagnosis of criteria in DSM-4
    • The prevelance of GID was estimated to be 2.3% with 62% of these cases said to be accounted for by genetic variance. Suggests there is a strong heritable component to GID
    • Heylens compared 23 MZ twins and 21 DZ twins where one of each pair was diagnosed with GID
    • They found that 39% of the MZ twins were concordant for GID compared to none of the DZs which would indicate a role for genetic factors in the dev of GID

 Social-psychological explanations

  • Psychoanalytic theory
    • Ovesey and Person have argued that GID in biological males is caused by the child experiencing extreme separation anxiety before gender identity has been established
    • The child fantasies of a symbiotic fusion with their mother to relieve the


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