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Michael Kitson Discuss Formation and Development of Gender Roles There are numerous theories to explain the formation and development of gender roles that range in terms of influence from nature and nurture. The theories that lean towards the nurture side of the debate argue that gender roles are subject to change therefore are learnt as one develops. Those arguments debating the view that nature plays the main role in determining how our gender develops believe that it is determined prena tally; it is a matter of hormones and genes that contribute towards the formation of gender. The Biological Explanation of gender is the view that your gender role is determined by biological factors and there s no scope for change from environmental factors as one grows up. The argument claims that genes, hormones and the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN) are responsible for the development of gender. Genes play a role because each gender differs in terms of chromosomes; males have the sex chromosomes XY whereas females have the combination XX. These different chromosomes carry hundreds of genes which affect the behaviour and gender development and importantly, they determine the sex of the child. Hormones influence behaviour by the development of genitalia and the development of the brain. Hormones like testosterone affect the developing brain; for example in males, it renders the brain masculinised, therefore better at tasks such as those involving spatial awareness skills. It also makes males more prone to aggressive behaviour when they are children, more prone to rough and tumble play. This is supported by Quadagno et al s (1977) study which found that female monkeys that d been deliberately exposed to testosterone during prenatal development engaged in more play-fighting and maleassociated behaviour. Further support that strengthens the view that biological factors have more influence than socialisation is provided by Imerato-McGinly et al. When males are insensitive to androgens such as testosterone, in extreme cases, they may not develop male external genitalia. This inevitably leads to them being raised as the opposite gender, female. Imerato -McGinly et al reported of a family they studied in 1979, where four of the children were accidentally raised as female due to their lack of male genitalia. Although when puberty struck, the children developed this genitalia. However, the girls were extremely quick to accept their change of gender which indicates that despite being socialised as girls, their true male biology prevailed; this is reinforced by Berembaum and Hines s study which observed how androgenised females had abnormally tom-boyish behaviour, again strengthening the argument that no matter how the person is socialised, it is their nature that determines their gender. However these pieces of research are not entirely valid. This is due to the fact that a lot of the research supporting the biological explanation, such as the study of t he Batista family, Michael Kitson does not have population validity as they re mostly case studies of abnormal people. This means the information learned from the Batista family cannot be generalised to the wider, normal population. There are major flaws in the biological explanation because of the vast variation in gender roles between different cultures. Margaret Mead (1935) found evidence for cultural determinism of gender role. She studied three different Papua New Guinean social groups and observed that in one group the males and females were gentle and cooperative whereas another group both the men and women were aggressive and violent. The third group contained females that were dominant and managerial which contrasted to the men who were more emotionally depende nt. These findings provide evidence for how gender differences are determined by social factors rather than biological. However, this evidence has undergone criticism affecting its validity: Freeman (1984) worked with a group of Samoans and discovered the tribes Mead had studied gave demand characteristics; they d provided her with the inf ormation she wanted to hear. Another flaw to the biological explanation is the view that if each gender is born with their gender s genes, hormones and SDN, each sex would behave in the same way. In reality, there is a vast variation within each sex which psychologists claim must be due to environmental influence. The Biological explanation is widely criticised as reductionist. The theory breaks down the gender role development into individual components which leads to certain aspects being oversimplified, such as the suggestion that hormones are solely responsible for aggressive behaviour in males. The theory can also be said to be determinist; if biology explains all aspect to a gender s behaviour, there would be a way to predict everyone s behaviour according to their biological makeup. This is a widely recognised flaw in the explanation. There are various explanations of gender role, such as the Social Learning theory, that incline towards the argument that gender is learned by the individual via their nurturing and socialisation. The Social Learning theory (Bandura 19 77) suggests that people acquire new behaviours by observing what others do and proceeding to model this behaviour. The learning of this behaviour is a product of indirect and direct tuition; indirect tuition as the person is likely to model behaviours that they have witnessed being rewarded. The direct tuition occurs when said person models this behavio ur and whether they pursue this behaviour is determined by the reaction of others; if their behaviour is rewarded or punished. Sources of these behaviours that influence the child are found in schools, from the parents, peers and the media. Fagot (1985) strengthened the proposition that your cultural environment, e.g. your peers, is where you learn which behaviours are appropriate to practice. He observed how children are gender police ; for example, if a boy were to start playing with a doll, the other boys would mock him therefore making him likely not to continue behaving this way in the Michael Kitson future. This observation is further reinforced by Sroufe et al (1993) who reported that children who fail to behave in a gender -stereotyped way are the least popular. Fagot s research has provided widely supported evidence for the Social Learning theory although there is a weakness to the study he conducted. The information collected cannot be generalised to different cultures therefore lacks ecological validity; his study wa s conducted in a Western culture but there is no certainty that children in other cultures would react the same way to behaviour that is inappropriate for a stereotypical gender. Many psychologists regard the Social Learning theory as reductionist, therefo re limiting the extent to which it truly explains gender role development. The theory suggests that gender is learned and adjusted via vicarious reinforcement but does not take into account any biological factors that may influence gender role development, despite many arguments stating that biology may play a key role or it could be a combination of both. The explanation is considered more valid, in some perspectives, than the aforementioned biological one. Social Learning theory explains how gender role changes over time and varies from culture to culture; however the theory tends to describe rather than explain and provides an over-simplistic view of gender development. The theory is also weakened by the observation that children do seem to pick up gender roles regardless of reinforcement which implies that there must be other contributing factors. On balance, both of the explanations discussed have flaws and therefore I think that neither explanation can be recognised as the correct theory for the develop ment and formation of gender roles. The biological approach has merit as it explains why there are common behaviours throughout each gender, for instance it give details as to why males are predominantly more aggressive than females; the testosterone hormo ne. However the theory does not explain, unlike the Social Learning theory , how behaviour ranges with culture. On the other hand, the Social Learning theory does not explain why rewards work and mainly describes what happens, which makes it a fairly weak argument. This along with the fact that it s over-simplistic makes the biological approach a more valid and in -depth explanation for the formation and development of gender roles. These points and the fact that it does not explain why rewards work make the theory a fairly weak explanation on its own - SLT