Gender - Biological Explanations

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Biological explanations =  assume that any differences between the sexes are attributable to biological differences and the actions of hormones. They see sex and gender as inter-related. 

In this approach Gender differences are explained in terms of :

  • chromosomal differences
  • Differences in hormonal activity

CHROMOSOMAL DIFFERENCES:

What are chromosomes? 

Chromosomes are biochemical units of inheritance. Most human bodies contain 46 chromosomes in 23 pairs. The 23rd chromosome is classed as the most important one, in females it is always X, however in male sperm it may carry either X or Y. 

What do chromosomes do?

They govern the development of every human being 

The combination at conception can be:

FEMALE: XX     MALE: XY

The male sperm determines the anatomical sex of a child. If chromosome 23 is Y then the hormones within this chromosome will 'Switch On' the development of the testes and prevent the development of the ovaries, the reverse is true if the 23 chromosome is X. 

If problems occur at this stage physical abnormalities may occur along with behavioural and psychological differences 

A-TYPICAL SEX CHROMOSOME PATTERNS:

MALE- Klinefelters syndrome XXYcaused by the presence of an extra X chromosome in males, it affects between 1 in 500 and 1 in 1000 males.

  • Psychological effects - Poor language skill which affects reading ability, passive and shy temprement and lacks ambition
  • Physical effect - Less body hair than a normal male, undeveloped genitals, long legs in relation to torso and infertile 

FEMALE- Turners syndrome XO: caused by the absence of an X chromosome, affects 1 in 2500 females.

  • Psychological effects: Higher than average reading ability, lowr than average spatial ability, unusual memory and math ability and difficult in society.
  • Physical effects: Ovaries fail to develop, short squat body with webbed neck.

In both klinefelters and turners syndromes it is evident that chromosomal abnormalities have an effect on both psychological and physical characteristics. This demonstrates a strong association between chromosomes, hormones and gender development. 

CASE STUDY THAT INVESTIGATED THE ROLE OF SEX CHROMOSOMES ON GENDER DEVELOPMENT:

Imperato and McGinley (1979):

Aim: To investigate how a group of boys responded to their biological male identity when they had been previously raised as girls, and believed to be girls by themselves.

Method: Studies a group of 38 boys from the Dominican Republic. The boys had a rare genetic abnormality, which meant they were born with male sex chromosomes, but at birth had the…

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