Gender Development

Gender concepts

Sex is a biological term referring to whether someone is male or female.

Gender – is a psychological term referring to whether someone is masculine, feminine or androgynous.

Sex-role stereotyping– an organised belief about the behaviour and characteristics expected of males and females.

Androgyny is when individuals display high levels of both masculine and feminine behaviours.

Bem created the BSRI to measure androgyny in which 20 feminine traits, 20 masculine traits and 20 androgynous traits were established. Participants had to do a 1 out of 7 “never or almost never true of me” rating and scores were given.


Is gender fixed or not – transsexuals would prove otherwise.

The Batista boys

McGinley reported a case of 38 boys from the Dominican republic who were appeared female at birth then puberty caused them to change physically into boys. The boys had no problems adapting to their new identity so biology took over years of them being raised as girls - illustrating the importance of biological factors.



Strengths                                                                Weaknesses

Is good evidence for the nature debate.


It is a case study, only involving people coming from one community. Other cultures may respond differently to the change.

Researchers met the participants as adults so had to rely on retrospective accounts of childhood.












The nature argument - argues that gender is biological and controlled by hormonal and genetic factors.

The nurture argument- argues that gender is a product of socialisation and is dependent on environmental experiences such as family and society. If gender roles are nurtured then it can explain why gender changes over time.

The basic assumption of the nurture argument is that babies are born without a gender identity, meaning in theory that a baby boy could be raised as a baby girl and vice versa. As we can’t test this assumption, we can look at cases where children have been raised as the opposite sex.

Money and Erhardt

A baby called Bruce accidently had his penis removed during a routine procedure and his parents were advised to reconstruct a vagina and raise him as a girl by giving him the hormone, oestrogen. Bruce never felt like a proper girl and when told by his parents what had happened, stopped hormone treatment and began living his life like a boy.



Strengths                                                                Weaknesses

Is good evidence for the nature debate as it suggests that biological influences are more important than socialisation.


It is a case study, involving only one person so results cannot be generalised to everyone else.

Raises ethical issues as the parents believed they were doing the right thing as they were acting on expert advice. However results had been misinterpreted to fit in with researcher’s beliefs.



The Biological explanation

Sex and gender is determined by biology and is accounted for by the 23rd chromosome (** for female, xy for males).



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