PSYA3 Gender


BIOSOC: Diamond and Sigmundson on David Reimer

  • Diamond, a biologist, challenged Money's assumptions and argued that research shows that importance of pre- and peri-natal sex hormones on gender identity and gender role via sexual differentiation in the brain.
  • What mattered in David's case is that he shared the same pre-natal environment as his brother - Money chose to ignore the biological approach.
  • In David's case it would appear that Diamond's theory is supported and Money's theory rejected.
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BIOSOC: Cross cultural and different social env

  • One major prediction is that there should be similarity across cultures for behaviours and activities strongly linked to sex-typed physical attributes and reproduction.
  •  E.G. activities involving being away from home would cause conflict for women with children as they need to be close to them.
  • But for men, who have greater speed and upper body strength, activities requiring intense energy bursts would be more suited to them.
  • Cross-cultural research is widely supportive of this as division of labour in non-industrialised societies does reflect women's reproductive function and men's physical strength.
  • Social aspects of any society also influence these sex-role activities. 
  • For instance, societies that have supplementary breast feeding available to women, they are more likely to be free from breastfeeding and therefore not as bound to their offspring. 
  • This means that they could potentially get involved with other activities normally reserved for men and this is evident in wealthy industrialised societies in which gender equality is greater and even legislated for.
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BIOSOC: Role of pre-natal hormones + evolutionary

  • Biosocial approach does not easily account for the existence of pre-natal hormones circulating during foetal development that relate to psychological and behavioural sex differences
  • The fact that hormones preceed gender-typed behaviour is a thorn in the side for the biosocial approach (Luxen 2007)
  • The alternative evolutionary account is based on Darwin's thesis which maintains that physical and psychological differences have evolved between men and women through the process of natural selection.
  • Hormones circulating during pre-natal development can explain psychological differences between the sexes and can account for differences in the structuring of the neuro-cognitive systems between men and women.
  • This further explains why there are sex dependent differences in cognitive ability.
  • This is a economical account but it is still too biologically determinist for sociobiologists who can, once again, call on evidence on flexibility in gender behaviour and of continuing patriarchy in some societies which institutionalises gender roles and makes them difficult to break down.
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EVO: Baron-Cohen on ES Theory

  • Baron-Cohen devised the emphasizing-systemizing theory, referred to as the E-S theory.
  • Research has found that males are are better at systemising and therefore are good hunters, whereas women are good at empathising, generally making them good mothers.
  • They suggest that this difference is due to selection pressure for males who develop better hunting strategies, and females who are focused on child-rearing.
  • This E-S theory was then extended into extreme male brain theory of autism
  • This argues that autism shows an extreme of the typical male profile and divides people into five groups:

> Two of these are type E: whose empathy is at a higher level than their systemizing, and type S: whose systemising is average but has a below average level of empathy. 

  • Tests of the E-S theory show that 2X as many females than males are type E, and 2X as many males as females are type S.
  • 65% of people on the autism specturm are extreme type S; therefore showing that it stems from males.
  • These findings back up Baron-Cohens findings from their E-S theory.
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SOC: Bandura on SLT

  • One way in which social context may provide a route for the acquistion of gender-stereotyped behaviour is through observing role models.
  • Bandura held three rules for this theory, which are:

1. They must pay attention

2. They must be able to remember 

3. They must reproduce what they have learned when they are motivated to do so.

  • This motivation may be external reward or some inner drive and so may vary with individuals.
  • Their gender is key - the findings of Bandura (1961) suggest that same-sex models are more effective than opposite sex models for increasing aggressive behaviour in children.
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Lindsey and Maize on parental influence (2001)

  • Lindsey and Maize investigated parents' play with their pre-school children. 
  • They found that parents, especially mothers, engaged with more pretend play with their daughters than their sons.
  • Fathers also engaged in more physical play with their with their sons than with their daughters.
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Lytton and Romney on parental influence

  • Lytton and Romney reviewed studies of how parents treat male and female children.
  • They found that sex-typed behaviour was encouraged in both genders, for example, shaping children's choices of activities and interests. 
  • However, there were many similarities in the ways that boys and girls were raised and they concluded that it was unlikely that differences in reinforcement could account for the accquisition of sex-typed behaviour.
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Idle, Smith and Lloyd on parental reactions

  • Smith and Lloyd found that when adults were asked to play with babies who were arbitrarily given either a boy or girl name, they typically stimulated boys more through physical activity like bouncing and jiggling them up and down.
  • The toys they offered were typically stereotyped; boys were given a toy hammer and girls a soft cuddly toy.
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Celulemans and Fauconnier on role models in the me

  • The media provides a range of very powerful models as they are often high in status, likeable and often to be reinforced.
  • All of these factors increase the likelihood that they will be imitated.
  • Celulemans and Fauconnier conducted an extensive review of the representation of women in mass media.
  • Their findings showed an overwhelmingly stereotypical representation.
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Milburn on clip art

  • In an analysis of males and females in computer clip art, they found that males are more often portrayed active and non-nurturing as females. 
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Mead on three cultures

  • Mead studied three cultures in the SEpik river basin in Papua New Guinea.
  • Among the Arapesh tribe, both men and women were peaceful in temperament and neither men nor women made war.
  • Among the Mundugumor, the opposite was true; both men and women were alike in temperament.
  • The Tchambuli were different from both tribes - the men 'primped' and spent their time decorating themselves whereas the women worked and were the practical ones- the opposite of how it was in 20th century America.
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Bigler on peer influence

  • Schools provide another source of adult role models.
  • Bigler (1995) conducted a field experiment in which classroom teachers were asked to use gender as a catagory in the classroom, for example, to divide children into working groups.
  • Control class teachers were asked to divide children into 'colour' groups or given no special instruction.
  • Four weeks later, the children in the experimental group demonstrated more gender stereotyping views compared with pre-test scores.
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GD: Coates on psychological trauma and gender dysp

  • One psychological explanation is that gender dysphoria is related to mental illness caused by some childhood trauma or maladaptive upbringing.
  • For example, Coates et al (1991) studied one boy who developed gender dysphoria, proposing that this was a defensive reaction to his mother's depression following an abortion.
  • This trauma may have lead to a cross-gender fantasy as a means of resolving the ensuing anxiety.
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GD: Cole on challenging psychological trauam

  • However, there is little research support for psychological explanations.
  • Cole et al (1997) studied 435 individuals experiencing gender dysphoria and reported that the range of psychiatric conditions displayed was no greater than found in a 'normal' population.
  • This suggests that gender dysphoria is generally unrelated to mental illness, trauma or pathological families.
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GD: Male hormones and gender dysphoria

  • A second explanation for gender dysphoria is a biological one.
  • Gender dysphoria may be caused by abnormal prenatal exposure to male hormones.
  • Some genetic conditions can cause a mismatch between hormones and genetic sex.
  • For example, CAH (congenital adrenal hyperplasia) occurs when XY individuals (genetic female) have high levels of male hormones prenatally and develop a small penis, and may be sex-typed as male.
  • In such cases, the outcome may be gender dysphoria.
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GD: Dessens on challenging hormones

  • There has also not been consistent research support for abnormal exposure to male hormones.
  • Dessens et al (2005) studied 250 genetic females with CAH who were raised as males.
  • Despite prenatal exposure to male hormones, 95% were content with their female gender role.
  • The remaining 5% did experience gender dysphoria by prenatal exposure to male hormones did not show a clear relationship with dysphoria.
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GD: Hare on the transsexual androgen receptor gene

  • A further biological explanation in that some individuals are born with a transsexual gene.
  • Hare et al (2009) studied 112 MtF transsexuals and found a version of the androgen receptor gene that causes reduced action of the male sex hormone testosterone.
  • This may have an effect on gender development in the womb (e.g. under-masculinising the brain) which would create dysphoria.
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GD: Zhou and Rametti on brain sex theory

  • A third explanation is the brain sex theory.
  • One region of the brain has been studied is the BSTc.
  • On average, the BSTc is twice as large in heterosexual women and contains twice the number of neurones.
  • Zhou et al (1995) found that the number of neurones in the BSTc in MtF transsexuals was similar to that of females.
  • It may be the size of the BSTc correlates with preffered sex rather than biological sex.
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GD: Cheung on challenging brain sex theory

  • The brain sex theory was challenged by Cheung et al (2002) who noted that differences in BSTc volume between men and women does not develop until adulthood, whereas most transsexuals report that their feelings of gender dysphoria began in early childhood.
  • This suggests that the difference found in the BSTc could not be the cause of transsexualism but might perhaps be an effect. 
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GD: Methodological and environmental issues

  • One of the issues with research is that there are different kinds of gender dysphoria. Blanchard (1985) has proposed two distinct groups: ‘homosexual transsexuals’ who wish to change sex because they are attracted to men, and ‘non-homosexuals’ who wish to change sex because they are sexually aroused by the thought of themselves as a woman. 
  • These differences suggest that there need to be different explanations.
  • As it is common for people to mistakenly equate biology with genetics, there is however some biological explanations for gender dysphoria that shows not to be genetic or even internal.
  •  For example, the pesticide DDT contains oestrogen which may mean that males are prenatally exposed to high levels of these female hormones, consequently leading to a mismatch between genetic sex and hormone influences.
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