PSYA3 Gender


Gender Definitions

Unger 1979

Sex- Refers to the biological facts that distingiuish males and females.

Gender- Refers to what culture applies to biological sexes. It is the social interpretation of sex.

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Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory

Assumes that behaviour is learnt through the environment.

Girls and boys learn to behave differently is because their parents and others treat them differently.

Baby X Study-Schaffer (2004)

2000 Male and Female adults-Watched a video of a 9month old baby, which was either introduced as a boy or girl eventhough the participants couldnt tell whether it was in fact a boy or girl-Adults described emotion on how the child reacted to toys.

If the 'boy' responded to Jack-in-a-box by crying it showed anger. If the 'girl' responded to Jack-in-a-box by crying it showed fear.

The child was judged to repond differently due to the gender label given to it. Condry & Condry concluded that the differences between male and female infants appear to be in the eye of the beholder.

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Observation,Imitation And Modelling Of Role Models

Reinforcement- Makes gender appropriate behaviour more likely to happen. Praise is an example.

Punishment- Makes gender behaviour less likely to happen. Being told off is an example.

Reinfircement and punishment can be direct or viscarious. Direct is Being rewarded/Punished for gender behaviour. Viscarious is watching someone being rewarded/Punished for gender behaviour.

Modelling- Demonstrating the same behaviour of a same sex role model that a relationship is formed with.

Imitation- Occurs with any person of the same sex ie Celebrity Role Models.

Identification- Requires an attachment to a specific same sex role model that possesses characteristics that an individual would like to have. By identifying with this role model the person is adding characteristics to themselves. Identification is an attachment to ANY same sex role model.

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Media and Gender Acquisition

There are lots of gender stereotypes presented in the media and research has measured this difference:

Evan and Davis (2000) - Content analysis of the traits portrayed by male and female characters on Tv. They found the traits of aggression and competitiveness were higher in male than female characters. Whilst emotional expressiveness and passivity were significantly more common in females.

Durkin (1995) - Concluded that children do sometimes change their gender stereotypes as a result of exposure to counter stereotypes.

Bee (2000) - Found that commercials for boys toys were fast, sharp and loud (action packed) while girls toys adverts were gradual, soft and fuzzy. These differences are transparent and six year olds easily identify them.

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Psychological Evidence Effect of Media on Gender

Johnson and Ettema (1982) - Compared 9-12year olds before and after watching 26 episodes of a drama which challenges gender stereotypes. They reported significant reductions in stereotyping after watching the programmes. Girls became more interested in sport and traditional male roles and boys were more accepting of girls participation in these activities.

Beasley and Stanley - Content analysis to examine the portrayal of women on 47 random video games. The analysis revealed significant sex bias in the number of male vs female characters found in the game, and in the way the characters were dressed. Only 13% of the characters were females and the majority of female characters exposed more skin than male characters.

Benbow and Stanley (1980) - Empirical study to investigate the impact of media coverage on parents opinions of their own child's maths ability. The results provided evidence that research in the media can have an effect on the beliefs of people who are exposed to it.

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Cross-Cultural Gender Differences

Researchers have shown wide variations in gender roles over different cultures. Therefore showing gender roles are not biological but in fact are social.

Margaret Mead - She hypothesised that if gender is biological people worldwide would define masculine and femanine traits the same. But if gender is cultural then traits should vary. She found that sometimes gender roles were completely reversed showing that nurture is more powerful than nature in determining gender.

George Murdoch - Researched over 200 pre-industrial societies and found that generally hunting and warfare fell to men while home-centered responsibility fell to women. Beyond these general patterns Murdoch found that most other tasks were shared by both men and women.

Overall, gender roles vary too much across cultures to be simply biological.

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Evaluations of Cross-Cultural Gender

Researcher bias on Meads study-She found what she wanted to see (-)

Social desirability-Children tried to show off in front of her (-)

Temporal Validity-Tribes are not as isolated now (-)

Tribes had a hand in what she saw (-)

Study over a long time (+)

Natural Setting-High ecological validity (+)

Still find similar results (+)

Participant observation leads to higher understanding (+)

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Biological Explanation of Gender


Sex chromosomes- X and Y, A female has two X-chromosomes whereas a male has a X and a Y chromosome.

XO chromosomes-Develop as a female-Turners Syndrome

** chromosomes-Develop as a female-No Syndrome

**X chromosomes-Develop as a female-No syndrome

XY chromosomes-Develop as a male-No syndrome

**Y chromosomes-Develop as a male-Klinefelters Syndrome

XYY chromosomes-Develop as a male-No Syndrome

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Turner's Syndrome and Klinefelter's Syndrome

Turner's Syndrome

Is caused by a missing or incomplete X chromosome. People who have this syndrome develop as females. The genes affected are involved in growth and sexual development which is why girls with the disorder are shorter than normal and have abnormal sexual characteristics.

Klinefelter's Syndrome

Occurs in men who have an extra X chromosome. The syndrome can affect different stages of physical, language and social development. The most common symptom is infertility, because they often dont make as much of the male hormone, testosterone as other boys. Teenagers with the syndrome may have less facial and body hair and may be less muscular. They may have trouble expressing themselves using speech.

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Biological Explanation-Hormonal Factors

Hormones are a chemical substance produced by the endocrine gland that has a specific effect on activities of other organs in the body.

The male and female hormones are classed as estrogens and androgens. Both hormones are present in males and females but in vastly different amounts, i.e. Men produce 6-8mg of the hormone testosterone whereas women only produce around 0.5mg daily. Same with estrogens, they are present in both males and females but women produce sugnificantly larger amounts.

Estrogens-Sex hormones mainly produced by a females ovaries that stimulate the growth of a girls sex organs, as well as breasts and pubic hair. They also regulate the functioning of the menstrual cycle. In men, estrogens have no known function. But an unusually high level may cause loss in sexual appetite, erectile difficulties, produce some breast enlargement and result in loss of body hair.

Androgens-Sex hormones mainly produced in a male's testes but are also produced in female's ovaries and the adrenal gland. Androgens help trigger the development of the testes and penis in the male fetus. They 'jump start' the process of puberty and influence the development of facial and pubic hair, the deepening of the voice and muscle development.

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Evidence Against Biological Sex and Gender Link

Spatial Ability-Durkin (1995)- Evaluated this conclusion by stating there is a large variation in spatial ability between individuals and that differences between male and females is negligible.

Aggression-Schaffer (2004)- States that when you account for non-physical aggression, there is no gender difference between men and women. Suggesting that levels of aggression are the same for both sexes and expression is culturally not biologically explained.

Verbal Ability-Hyde & Linn (1988)- Suggests that evidence for gender differences in verbal ability is small and differences are negligible.

Mathematical Ability-Hyde et al (1990)- States while there were sex differences this difference was very small so was not deemed significant.

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Evidence For Biological Sex and Gender Link

Spatial Ability-Maccoby & Jacklin (1974)- Conclude males ability to percieve figures or objects in space and their relationship to each other is better than females.

Aggression-Maccoby & Jacklin (1974) and Westfield (1994)- Found boys are more verbally and physically aggressive than girls. This appears at around 2.5 years.

Verbal Ability-Maccoby & Jacklin (1974)- Found females become verbally superior after the age of 11 years.

Mathematical Ability-Maccoby & Jacklin (1974)- Point out that mathematical ability increases faster in boys than girls from the age of 12-13 years.

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Psychological Androgyny doesn't refer to sexuality. It is a person who has characteristics that the society they live in says are male ones as well as those in which society says are female.

The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) 1974

The BSRI made it possible to measure androgyny by logically and empirically seperating scores on masculinity and femininity. It compromises two independent scales.

Popular and widely used test- Popular method for measuring gender identity (+)

Methodological Problems (-)

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Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person feels that there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.

Research: Hare et al (2009)-Aimed to demonstrate a genetic component to transsexualism by investigating variants of the androgen receptor. They found a significant assciation between transsexualism and the gene, with transsexuals having a longer gene than non-transsexuals. Concluded that gender identity may be affected by the androgen receptor. In transsexual males it would fail to masculinise the brain during foetal development as the long version of the gene results in weaker testosterone signals.

Wallien and Cohen-Kettenis (2008)-Aimed to find out whether children who are gender-dysphoric retain their gender identity. Concluded that most children with gender dysphoria do not remain gender dysphoric after puberty. However, those with persistent gender identity problems have more extreme symptoms in childhood than children who do not become gender dysphoric.

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Biosocial Theory

Biosocial Theory claims that evolution did not design human psychological sex differences. It argues that these are the result of the allocation of men and women into different sex roles. It acknowledges that social and biological factors work together to influence gender identity.

Hormonal Differences:

Eagly & Wood (2002)- Hormonal differences may be an outcome of social roles eg testosterone as a result of engaging in active and competitive activities.

Money & Ehrhardt (1972)- "Anatomy is destiny"- Case of David Reimer- Money concluded that individuals are psychosexually neutral at birth, healthy psychosexual development is related to the appearence of genitals.

Diamond criticised Money- Diamond argued that the gender reassignment had not worked and caused unhappiness and ultimately led to David's suicide in 2004. Therefore Diamond concluded that gender reassigned children should have cases reviewed at puberty.

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Critical Period- The 3rd year is a critical period because gender identity is established and therefore can not be changed without serious psychological harm.

Critical Events- Number of events that influence the development. Biological influences begin before birth and social influences begin after birth. 

Intersex Children- If the child's sex is determined before the age of three, social factors will influence so that the child accepts their gender.

The case of David Reimer by Money

Imperato- McGinley et al (1974)- Four sons from Dominican Republic born female but at 12 developed male genitals. All adjusted to male roles. Supports biosocial approach becasue they shouldnt have adjusted well as it was after the critical period. 

Goldwyn (1979)- Mrs.DW, a woman with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome was brought up female but in late teens was informed she was male and had no female organs, however she stayed female. Supports nurture.

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Evolutionary Theory

Darwins theory of natural selection suggests that the most successful animals will end up with characteristics that enable them to out perform their rivals. Selection involves attracting a mate that has the greatest fitness, in order for the 'best' gene to be passed on to the next generations.

Two types of sexual selection- Intra Sexual Selection- Referring to competition for reproduction between members of the same sex.

Inter Sexual Selection- Referring to selection by females of mates.

Goal of human behaviour is to reproduce and pass on our genes to the next generation and so human reproductive behaviour has also been influenced by sexual selection pressures.

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Evolutionary Explanation of Gender Roles

Trivers (1972) proposed the ideas of parental investment-the amount of effort an individual spends on having surviving offspring. Females commit much more biology in their investment and energy in pregnancy and breast-feeding, therfore commiting much more than a male does. Trivers suggests on this basis women should be more fussy about their partner and look for someone who will contribute to child rearing-An ambitious rich man who is likely to look after them is ideal.

Men, according to the evolutionary theory, should look for signs of fertility in women since the selective pressure is to maximise oppourtunities of offspring. Males would therfore look for signs of youthfulness, such as facial attractiveness.

A women can be certain that any offspring is their own whereas this is not guaranteed for a man. Therefore, men should also look for chastity in their partner.

Overall women should seek rich, ambitious and industrious partners and men should seek chaste, young and attractive ones.

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Buss Sex Differences in Human Mate Preferences

Buss (1989)

Aim: Test evolutionary predictions that men would prefer young, attractive and chaste women. While women would prefer industrious, ambitious and high-earning men. Used a cross-cultural comparison.

Method: Survey asked 4601 males and 5446 females from 33 countries and 37 cultural groups about preferred mate characteristics.

Results: In 36 of 37 samples women placed more emphasis than men on financial prospects and in 34 samples they placed more emphasis on industriousness and ambition. In all samples men emphasised attractiveness more than women and in all samples men gave a younger ideal age for a partner than women. Attitudes to chastity were more variable, only 23 of 37cultures revealed a gender difference, but where there was a difference, men placed more importance on chastity than women.

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Buss Conclusion and Evaluations

Conclusion: All of the predictions of the evolutionary theory were supported, with men valuing indicators of fertility and certainty of being the father and women valuing the potential to look after children


Supports evolutionary theory (+)

Cross cultural study (+)

Nature over nurture (+)

Oppourtunity sample-not representitive-problems with generalising (-)

4601 males and 5546 females-not representitive, sample not even (-)

Usually student sample-not generalisable (-)

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Cognitive Theory of Gender

Cognitive approach believes thought processes shape our gender ideas and that this develops in a critical period during a childs early years. This is a process of thoughts in gradual steps rather than an instant process.

Kohlbergs Cognitive Development- The child actively participates in developing an understanding of gender. He proposed three stages; Gender Identity, Gender Stability and Gender Constancy.

Gender Identity is usually reached by the age of 2. The child is able to label its own sex, but believes it can change.

Gender Stability is usually reached by the age of 4. The child realises that gender remains the same across time. However, the understanding of gender is heavily influenced by external features ie hair and clothes.

Gender Constancy is usually reached by the age of 7. The child begins to understand that gender is independent of external features, ie a boy is still a boy if he wears a dress. The child actively seeks role models and they imitate and internalise the role models behaviours.

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Testing Kohlberg

Slaby and Frey (1975)- Asked 55 children aged between 2 and 5.5years questions related to gender identity, gender stability and gender consistency. Between 2 and 6 weeks after the interview the children were tested again by an observer looking at the amount of time the child looked at a screen depicting a male on one side and a female on the other side of the screen.

They found that:

97% had achieved gender identity,

75% had achieved gender stability,

50% had achieved gender consistency.

Therefore concluding that gender development is sequentially ordered as Kohlberg suggested, and they are age-related.

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Evidence for Kohlbergs Stages

Gender Identity- Thompson (1975)- Asked children to categorise items as belonging to men or women. Found 76% of 2year olds correctly identified items gender specifically as did 90% of 3year olds. Concluded that age does affect childrens understanding of gender and gender roles.

Gender Stability- Slaby & Frey (1975)- Asked young children sex trait questions. Found that children below the age of 3 could not answer in the correct way a significant amount of the time whilst those over three could. Concluded that youg children did not recognise that sex stayed stable over time. Gender stability is established by 3years.

Gender Constancy- Damon (1977)- Read children a story about a boy who likes to play with dolls and asked their opinion if this was accpetable or not. Found that young children thought it was acceptable for the boy to play with dolls. Older children tended to say it was unusual or wrong. Concluded that young children have no concept of gender appropriate behaviour. Older children have a more developed idea of gender and apply them consistently.

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Gender Schema Theory

Gender Schema Theory refers to the theory that children learn a set of rules about what it means to be male and female from the culture in which they live. They therefore learn from the people they see and organise their cognitive structures around the information they take in. According to this theory, children adjust their behaviours to 'fit in' with gender norms.

Martin and Halverson (1981)- We are active in acquiring information about our gender. Unlike Kohlberg gender schema theory states we only need our basic gender identity. Gender identity is gained from around 2-3years. They see themselves as in two groups; their group is the 'in-group', the opposite sex is the 'out-group'. Children actively seek out information about how members of their group should behave. The child ignores features of life that do not relate to their group. This leads them to form schemas and their environment helps them to develop these. Schemas become more complex over time.

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Supporting Gender Schema Theory

Campbell et al (2000)- Used 3 groups of babies; 3month, 9month and 18month olds. Used visual preference techniques. Found that 3month babies showed a slight preference for looking towards same sex babies. 9month males preferred to look at 'boys toys'. Both boys and girls preferred to look at same gender. Concluded that babies develop gender schemas before they can talk.

Campbell (2004)- Longitudinal study of 56 children at 27 and 39 months. Study took place in childs home. The child was asked to point out whether the pictures were of a girls or boys toy, a girl or boy, or a girl or boys activity. The child was also given 10 toys to play with and was filmed playing with them for 30mins. Found that 53% of 2 year olds could do the gender labelling task, by 3,94% could. At 2, 20% could stereotype toys, by 3, 51%. By 39months only 1/6 could stereotype activities. Concluded that gender schemas develop rapidly between 2and3 but not for everything.

Martin et al (1995)- 4 and 5 year olds shown a range of toys. Before they played with them they were told whether it was for girls or boys. Children then asked if they or other children of the same gender would like to play with the toys.Found the label given to the toy affected the preference the child gave it. Supports gender schemas and how children categorise and organise objects and match them to gender behaviour.

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Summary of Each Approach to Gender

Genetic Approach- States gender is determined by a persons DNA and genes in your body. Gender is inherited.

Evolutionary Approach- States that gender is determined by evolution and how we have evloved. Gender is innate.

Social Learning Theory- Suggests gender is developed through influence from the world around us. Gender is learned.

Sociobiological Theory- Suggests that gender is influenced by both biological and social factors. Biology shapes pre-disposition to gender and social learning reinforces it.

Cognitive Approach- States that gender is determined by our thought process and this occurs in the critical period during a childs early years. Gender is a process of thought in gradual steps.

Psychodynamic Approach- States gender is decided by unconscious processes and is developed during childhood.

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