Psychology Sex and Gender (B541)

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Key Concept:

·         Sex is a biological term which tells us whether someone is male or female. This is determined at conception, when a sperm fertilises an egg.

·         A person's sex is obvious through characteristics present from birth, for example the Penis or Vagina.

·         It is also obvious from other characteristics that develop as a person gets older, such as breasts or facial hair.

·         Since these characteristics are fixed, a person's sex cannot change. Even people who undergo so-called 'Sex change' operations have not really changed their sex. Their internal organs, such as the ovaries and the brain, will still be the same, and these also determine sex.

·         Gender is a psychological term and is more to do with how a person behaves or thinks.

·         There are three main categories for gender: masculine, feminine and androgynous.

·         Masculinity refers to typical male traits or roles, such as being aggressive, going out to work or playing football.

·         Femininity refers to typical female traits or roles, such as being sensitive, staying at home to care for children, or playing with dolls.

·         Androgyny refers to both masculine and feminine traits and roles. An androgynous person is someone who displays many masculine behaviours and many feminine behaviours.

·         There is evidence that androgynous people are healthier then people who are just masculine or feminine.

Core Theory: Biological Approach

·         The biological approach believes that an individual's gender is decided the same time as their sex is determined - at conception.

·         When a new foetus is formed, it has two sex chromosomes as part of its genetic make-up. This pair of chromosomes decides whether it will be a male or female.

·         The biological approach also argues that they decide whether the individual will grow up to be masculine or feminine.

·         The female chromosome is **. The male chromosome is XY.

·         Some babies can be born with atypical (abnormal) sex chromosomes like **Y on some baby boys so the extra X chromosome gives them a more feminine traits as well as more female looking bodies.

·         This shows that chromosomes can have a significant effect on gender.

Alternative Theory: The Psychodynamic Approach

·         The psychodynamic approach says that gender is less to do with biology and nature, and more to do with upbringing. It particularly focuses on the role if parents.

·         Freud believed that children develop in stages.

·         Between the ages of three to six, a child develops a strong attachment to the opposite sex parent (boys to their mother, girls to their father).

·         However, this causes problems for their relationship with the same sex parent.

·         In boys, Freud called this the Oedipus complex.

·         In girls, it is called the Electra complex.

·         In the Oedipus complex, boys fear their father finding out about their desire for their mother. Boys are afraid their father will be so angry that they will cut off their penises - this leads to castration anxiety.

·         In the Electra complex, girls desire their fathers because


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