Gender Development: Social or Biological
Gender Development: Social or Biological
In a variety of contexts, the word “gender” is used to describe “the masculinity or femininity of words, persons, characteristics, or non-human organisms” (Wikipedia, 2006). More specific to psychology, gender role is a term used to describe the normal behavior associated with a given gender status. Those that do not follow this customary role given to their particular gender are said to have an atypical gender role. “A person who has normal male genitalia and identifies himself as a man will usually take up a masculine gender role, a role in society that will be viewed by the other people in his society as a normal thing for a male to do. A person who has normal female genitalia and identifies herself as a woman will probably do things that other people in her society will regard as appropriate to women” (Wikipedia, 2006). Some examples of the opposite of this, or of atypical gender roles are bisexual males or females, lesbians, or even just a male who has a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or alto voice produced by castration of the singer before puberty. Then there is the term “sex,” which many people believe means the same as gender. These terms, although similar, have different meanings. The term sex refers to “male and female duality of biology and reproduction”, while gender has more to do with identity (Wikipedia, 2006). The reason why this distinction is important in theories of gender roles is due to the fact that when looking at the roles individuals play within their specific gender, both biological factors and indentity factors must be included.
As seen in the John/ Joan article by John Colapinto, there is a huge controversy between biological and socio-cultural theories of gender role development. Those who believe that gender role development is socio-cultural, think that a child can be born of one sex, and raised as the opposite, and can function normal socioally, and physically if the child is reared towards their new gender. On the other hand, those who believe that gender role is biological, think that an infant has been assigned their gender way before they are born. That biologically they are either male or female. They believe that if a child’s sex is changed, the child will still show signs of their left behind gender. By the time the sex of a child matters, it’s gender will be obivous (Gould, 1972). There are six theoretical perspectives concerning gender role development. The frist two would be considered biolocial. First, evolutionary theory is proposed as an alternative to more socially oriented explanations of gender differentiation. This view attributes overriding power to biology. The second is biosocial. Here, critical episodes that affect eventual preference for particular gender role are looked at. Conception happens when the inheritance of either X or Y chromosomes from father takes place. Testosterone secretion leads to development of male sex characteristics, and visa versa for females. Social factors will then immediately follow birth. There are then four theories that are considered to be socio-cultural. Social learning theory says that gender conceptions are constructed from the complex mix of experiences and how they operate in concert with motivational and self-regulatory mechanisms to guide gender-linked conduct throughout the life course. An example of this would be that when a child’s social life is changed due to going to a new school, making new friends, or something of that nature, the child would typically go along with what others of their gender are supposed to do. In psychoanalytic theory, initially, both boys and girls are believed to identify with their mothers. However, between 3 to 5 years of age this changes and children identify with the same-sex parent. Identification with the same-sex parent is presumed to resolve the conflict children experience as a result of erotic attachment to the opposite-sex parent and jealousy toward the same-sex parent. An example of a child who this does not take place with, is a child who feels anxiety and resentment over not having the opposite sexes private parts. According to cognitive developmental theory, children develop the stereotypic conceptions of gender from what they see and hear around them. Once they achieve this, the belief that their own gender is fixed and irreversible. They seek to behave only in ways that are congruent with that conception. An example of this would be a boy, who wants to do boy things, therefore the opportunity to do boy things is rewarding. Last is gender schema theory, here the mastery of gender identity, the ability of children to label themselves and others as males or a female is necessary for gender development. A child who knows the he or she is male or female, and can tell which someone else is due to his or her environment and norms can be an example of this (Shaffer, 2005).
After weighing and researching both the socio-cultural and the