Discuss the formation and development of gender roles
and psychological differences in men and women are natural and result in
different gender roles. Men are naturally more competitive and aggressive
because this increases chances of attracting a partner and providing
resources for offspring. Women are nurturing because this is needed to
attract a partner and take care of offspring.
The theory is controversial. There are cross cultural differences as well as
similarities in gender roles so it is more logical to assume that gender
roles should be seen as an interaction of biological and sociocultural
2. Theory of
identity is related to genetic sex determined by chromosomes (XX for girls
and XY for boys). During prenatal development, sex hormones are released.
These prenatal hormones cause the external genitals of the fetus and the
internal reproductive organs to become masculine or feminine. It’s the
presence or absence of male hormones (androgens) that makes a difference in
(e.g. testosterone) in the male fetus stimulate the development of male sex
characteristics and have a masculinizing effect on the brain of the
theory humans are born with innate predispositions to act and feel female or
male due to the presence or absence of prenatal androgens. Socialization
plays a subsidiary role.
theory of gender role development
Ehrhardt (1972) claim that children are gender neutral at birth. Development
of gender identity and adherence to gender role is primarily a consequence
The theory is
based on case studies of individuals born with ambiguous genitals called
intersex in medical literature. Money found children who had been born
as females genetically but were raised as boys and thought of themselves as
boys. Money theorized that humans are not born with a gender identity and
therefore it is possible to reassign sex within the first two years of life.
The theory is
supported by animal research. Female rat fetuses injected with testosterone
tend to behave like male rats as adults. They do not exhibit normal female
sexual behavior in adulthood even if they are injected with the female
hormone estrogen at that time.
Reimer was a twin boy who accidentally lost his penis under a routine
circumcision, when he was 8 months. Dr. John Money suggested that the
parents change the sex of the boy through surgery, hormone replacement and
raise him as a girl. David Reimer was changed into a girl, Brenda.
the identical twin as a matched control and believed that this case would
support the biosocial theory. In Money's scientific articles the sex change
seemed to be a success but he failed to publish evidence that went against
his theory. Brenda (David) was not happy and felt different from the other
At the age
of 15 her parents revealed the truth. Brenda decided to become a male again
and had reconstructive surgery to create a penis.
study seriously questions the biosocial theory that socialization can
override biological make-up. In fact, it rather lends support to the theory
of hormonal psychosexual differentiation.
(1977) theory assumes that gender roles are learned through the observation of
same-sex models, direct tuition, and modeling.
of gender role behavior by same-sex models: the child observes how others
behave and then imitates (models) that behavior.
Acceptable gender behavior is rewarded (social approval) by significant
others (parents, peers) and gender inappropriate behavior is discouraged
(1978): the Baby X experiment asked adults to interact with infants dressed in
unisex snowsuits of either blue or pink. The snowsuits were randomly distributed
and not always in line with the infants’ true sex. The adults played with the
infants according to what they believed was the gender of the child (color of
snowsuit). This indicates that a baby’s perceived gender is part of the baby’s
social environment because people treat the child according to perceptions of
gender. This could influence the child’s own perception of gender and become a
determining factor in the development of the child’s gender role identity.
(1993) observed children around the ages of 10 and 11 and found that those who
did not behave in a gender-stereotyped ways were the least popular. These
studies indicate that children establish a kind of social control in relation to
gender roles very early and it may well be that peer socialization is an
important factor in gender role development.
schemas are generalized ideas about what is appropriate behavior for males
and females. People are categorized as either male or female and given
specific gender attributes (gender stereotypes). Gender schemas thus
organize knowledge and information processing.
theory is based on the assumption that cognitive processes play a key role
in the development of gender identity and gender roles.
important factor in the development of gender role identity is children’s
ability to label themselves as boys or girls, i.e. the establishment of
gender identity. Gender schemas guide subsequent information processing.
motivated to be like others in their group (conformity) and they tend to
observe same-sex role models more carefully. Cultural beliefs about female
and male gender roles are included in gender schemas and influence the way
children think about themselves and their possibilities.
Martin and Halvorson
performed an experiment with boys and girls aged between five and six years.
They saw pictures of males and females in activities that were either in line
with gender role schemas (e.g. a girl playing with a doll) or inconsistent with
gender role schemas (e.g. a girl playing with a gun). A week later, the children
were asked to remember what they had seen on the pictures. The children had
distorted memories of pictures that were not consistent with gender role
schemas. They remembered the picture of a girl playing with a gun as a boy
playing with a gun. This shows how information may be distorted to fit with
Halvorson found that children actively construct gender identity based on
their own experiences. The tendency to categorize on the basis of gender
leads them to perceive boys and girls as different.
Martin and Halvorson, children have a gender schema for their own sex (the
ingroup) and for the opposite sex (the outgroup).
schemas determine what children pay attention to, whom they interact with,
and what they remember. Gender schemas thus serve as an internal,
self-regulating standard. This could be the reason that gender schemas may
become a self-fulfilling prophecy or a stereotype threat.