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  • Created on: 22-11-12 20:44

Chapter 16 – Biological influences on gender

Introduction and some key terms

Sex – biological fact of being male or female

Gender – masculine / feminine

Androgyny – co-existence of feminine and masculine in the same person

Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) - questionnaire identifies four gender types

Bem (1974)

- 50 male + 50 female, rate list of 200 traits desirable for men or women

- Create gender stereotypes

- 20 desirable for men, 20 women and 20 neutral - BSRI

- Ask students to rate themselves 1-7 for traits

- Scores presented for each sub-scale

- Four gender types

a) High feminine + low masculine – sex-typed

b) High masculine + low feminine – sex-typed

c) High masculine + high feminine – androgyny

d) Low masculine + low feminine – undifferentiated

Further, sex-typed have poorer psychological health, androgynous better psychological adjustment.

Methodological issues:

Use of students as raters – bias scale – more egalitarian in view than general population.

Ethical issues

Use of scale – informed consent; debriefing.

Gender identity – classification of yourself as male or female.

Gender dysphoria – being uncomfortable with your assigned gender, desire to become member of the other sex.

The relationship between gender and sex.

Biological differences between male and female

(-) highly deterministic; gender and gender development programmed by biological factors

What makes a baby boy or girl?

Genes; hormones; brain differences

Embryo has 23 pairs of chromosomes; 23rd determines the sex; if X from both parents – girl; if X from mom and Y from dad – boy. Between 4-8 weeks gene on the 23rd chromosome releases hormones; in male embryotestosterone is released to hypothalamus; without it would develop a female brain; in female embryo hormone release is very slight.

Sexually dimorphic nucleus SDN – in male 2.5 times larger with 2.2 times the # of cells.

Left hemisphere – speech + language; right hemisphere – spatial skills; information passed through corpus callosum; women use both, men predominantly right.

Klinefelter’s syndrome – men with XXY – unusually tall + enlarge breast + infertile. XYY – super males – taller than normal + supposedly aggressive; Inter-sex babies – characteristics of both sexes, e.g. one ovary + one testis.

Biological differences; gendered behaviour

Male + female exposed to androgens and estrogens; overall balance is important; under-over exposure during critical period may influence later gender-related behavior; boys too little – feminine; girls too much – male resembling genitalia.

Animal research

Young (1966) – rats, species that show very different sexual behavior; males mount behind and females adopt the ‘lordosis’ position. Female rats given male hormones and vice versa during critical period of early development. Behaviors reversed. Exposure to testosterone thought to have enlarged SDN.

Case study research

Money (1972) – girls exposed ‘in utero’ to high levels of male hormones through anti-miscarriage drugs; compared to non-exposed sisters; mothers asked to comment on games, toys and clothes they liked; mothers reported differences between two groups – more boyish games,


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