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Chapter 12 – Gender and Sexuality

Questions tackled in this chapter:

1. How much does it matter in terms of development, whether a child is
perceived and treated as a girl or a boy?
2. How much does it matter whether a child is a girl or a boy biologically?

Sex differences (engagement 12.1)

 Males are more aggressive than females
 Males are more active than females
 Females have stronger verbal abilities than males
 Males have greater spatial and mathematical abilities than females

Sex and Gender

Biological sex – physical characteristics that define male and female (e.g.
Females (XX) – ‘hardier sex,’ generally live longer and less susceptible to many
physical disorders.
Males (XY) – generally taller, heavier and more muscular

Gender – features that a society associates with or considers appropriate for a

sex (e.g. women earn less money)

Gender Roles and stereotypes:

Gender Roles – The patterns of behaviour that females and males should adopt
in a particular society. Those considered standard or those that meet societies
expectations are referred to as ‘Gender-role norms.’

Gender role norms develop into Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes – over generalized and largely inaccurate beliefs of what
males and females are like.

Gender roles across cultures:

Females are more associated with communality (consecutiveness, emotionality
and sensitivity to others) in a more nurturing role.
While males’ gender roles centre around agency (dominance, independence,
achievement and competitiveness) in roles of the provider and the protector.

Gender differences or Similarities?

Janet Hyde’s (2005) gender similarities hypothesis ‘males and females are
similar on most, but not all, psychological variables. That is, men and women, as
well as boys and girls, are more alike than they are different.’

Alice Eagly’s (1987) social-role hypothesis suggests that ‘Differences in the roles
that women and men play in society do a lot to create and maintain stereotypes’
Men have powerful jobs -> we think men are powerful
Women have nurturant jobs -> we think women are nurturers
However on average:
 Females sometimes display better verbal abilities especially reading
 Males display better special ability except with remembering objects
 Both perform similarly on most standardized maths tests but females
tend to achieve high maths grades in the classroom.
 Females display a greater memory ability e.g. verbal recall, facial
recognition and recognizing familiar odours.
 Males engage in more physical and verbal aggression starting as early as
17 months.
 Females are more likely to engage in subtle, indirect and relational forms
of aggression.
 Males are more physically active.
 Males are more developmentally vulnerable – several diseases, reading
disabilities, speech defects, hyperactivity, emotional problems and mental
 Females are more tactful, cooperative and empathetic
 Females more likely to give in to peer pressure
 Females are more prone to developing anxiety disorders, depression and
 Males more likely to develop anti social behaviours and drug/ alcohol

Variations in fetal development

About 2% of babies vary from the two distinct sexes
Intersexuality (intersexed) a collective term for a number of specific variations in
biological sex.
Eg. Androgen insensitivity, Tumer’s syndrome

Gender identity disorder (GID): psychological disorder defining individuals

who have a disjuncture between their assigned sex and their core gender
identity. They often under go sex change surgery -> transsexuals

The Infant

Mainly only anatomical differences at birth

- females more alert
- males more irritable

Treated differently (‘sex-appropriate’)

- Nick-names
- Coloured clothes
- Room furnishings
- Toys
- Hairstyles

Early learning
- 3-4 months infants can distinguish male and female faces
- 1 year they can match male/ female voices with the appropriate faces
- 24 months they look longer at males/ females performing gender
inconsistent activities
- 2 ½ - 3 years sense of Gender identity (an awareness of if they are a boy
or girl) develops – adjust behaviour appropriately

The Child

Gender typing acquire motives, values and patterns of behaviour that their
culture considers appropriate stemming from primarily from the different ways
females and males are perceived and raised.

- Younger children are more rigid in their stereotyping beliefs (especially

during pre school years, 5-7)
- 30 -36 months children seem to prefer same sex play mates and this
increases in elementary school, leading to gender segregation
- those adhering to gender stereotypes seem more socially competent and
accepted by their peers
- The agentic role is well defined and therefore males are more ridiculed or
rejected if the do not conform to it.

The Adolescent

- Gender role violations once again become largely intolerable and often
even seen as signs of psychological abnormalities
- Gender intensification gender difference’s are magnified by puberty
associated hormonal differences and increased pressure to conform to
gender roles. Plus increased important of dating and conforming to gender
roles in order to appeal to the opposite sex

Explaining gender-role development

Biosocial theory (John Money and Anke Ehrhardt, 1972):

Early biological developments (hormones and genitalia) influence how people
react to the child (Prenatal as well as postnatal influences).

Biological evidence:
- Agentic and communal traits are reflected in the animal kingdom
- Twin studies reveals the individual heredity accounts for 20% - 50% of
the variation in the extent to which people describe themselves.
- Androgenized girls (girls predisposed to an excess of androgens who
under went surgery to alter their genitals) are more likely to appear as
‘tomboys,’ start dating later, put more emphasis on their career and
around 37% describe themselves and homosexual or bisexual.
- Males with higher levels of testosterone tend to be more aggressive, with
higher levels of drug abuse, delinquency and anti social behaviour (more
prominent in lower socio-economic circumstances)
Social-Labelling influences:
- Sensitive period between 18 months and 3 years for establishment of
gender identity
Inheritance of
(XX or YY)

Development of
testies/ ovaries

Development of
sex differences Secretion of Development of
in brain + fetal hormones genitalia
nervous system

Secretion of
hormones Reaction of
Child reaction
during puberty other people to
to his/ her own
child’s physical

sexual urges –
changes in body
image and self

Social Learning Theory:

Children learn identities through two processes differential reinforcement and

observational learning.

Differential Reinforcement:
Encouragement of sex appropriate behaviours and punishment of sex
inappropriate behaviours (received more by boys and given out more by
- Girls are more likely to be given stricter rules as they are seen as being
able to be influenced and need protecting while ‘boys will be boys.’
- Boys maths ability is more often credited to their ability while girls to
their hard work -> girls begin to believe they are less competent as
parents have lower expectations

Observational Learning:
Children adopt the behaviours and attitudes of their same-sex models
- Peers, siblings, adults, media and books
- Does not take into account the child’s view on their gender socialization.

Critique: Child is seen as passive recipient of agents of socialization child’s own

role in gender development is ignored

Cognitive Theories:
Children acquire an understanding of gender and then actively teach themselves to
be boys or girls.

Cognitive Developmental Theory (Kohlberg, 1966):

 Gender-role development depends on stages of cognitive development
 Children actively engage in self-socialization

Children firstly understand they are a boy or girl then actively seek same sex
models and other information how to act ‘appropriately’
Children go through three stages as they acquire gender consistency
1. At 2-3 children can identify themselves as males or females – basic
gender identity is established
2. At about 4 they acquire gender stability (gender identity is stable
over time, boys become men)
3. 5-7 gender concept is complete and gender consistency is achieved
(gender is stable across situations and can not be altered by
superficial methods) – at concrete operational stage

Gender Schema Theory (Martin & Halverson, 1981)

- Children are intrinsically motivated to acquire values, interests and
behaviours consistent with their cognitive judgments of self.
- Children create their own gender schemata depending on their basic
gender identity
- Children will distort information in order to abide by their schemata
Critique of Cognitive Theories: Gender development is not only in the cognitions
of the child – what about interaction with others? Minimizes the role of societal
constructs of gender

Interactionist Theories: Doing gender.

Gender is not an identity it is something we DO all the time - a performance that

changes depending on specific situations and contexts.
It is created through social interactions throughout our lives (instead of just past
- It becomes naturalised because you do it all the time
- Some people are socialised in one way and then practice it in an other

Social Structural/ Organisational Theories

Critique psychological theories of gender:

- we interact with social institutions which aren’t gender neutral
- it is not about people being gendered – it’s about how institutions are
- How we account for the strength and persistence of the production of
- Gender inequalities maintained at the level of institutions, organizations
and social structures

All theories agree on one aspect, gender is based on what society has to offer.

The Adult

Androgyny a balancing of both agentic and communal traits.

Gender stereotypical roles intensify during child-bearing years and relaxes once
again when the children leave home.

Parental imperative the requirement that mothers and fathers adopt different
roles in order to raise children successfully

Sexuality over the life span

Sigmund Freud stated that we are born with sexual energy that is redirected to
different parts of our body as we develop. This wasn’t entirely correct but he was
right in saying that infants are sexual beings – they touch and manipulate their
genital areas in order to experience physical arousal.

There is a continuous sexual curiosity throughout preschool and becomes more

discrete as children enter elementary school. At the age of about 10 first sexual
interactions occur due to the maturation of adrenal glands (produce male
- Also depends on social norms and culturally accepted sexual behaviours

Childhood Sexual Abuse

Leads to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, aggression, acting out, withdrawal,

school learning problems, posttraumatic stress disorder.

Effects of abuse are more likely to be more severe when it involved:

 Penetration
 Forceful
 Frequent occurrences
 A close relative
 Mother was not a reliable source of support

Adolescent Sexuality

Sexual Orientation preference of sexual partners – heterosexual, homosexual and

Sexual orientation is largely genetic – identical twins are more alike in sexual
orientation but environmental factors are almost equally influential (however
there is no proven specific factors).

Sexual Morality, adolescents establish attitudes regarding appropriate sexual

Three generalizations have emerged from recent research on adolescents:
1. Sexual affection is acceptable in a committed relationship however do not
approve of casual sex.
2. There is a decline of ‘double standards’ where what is seen as
appropriate behaviour for males may not be seen as appropriate for
3. They are confused about sexual norms – receive many mixed messages,
media, peers, sexual education courses (STI’s) etc.

Sexual behaviour
Increased incidences of oral sex in high school and college going students than in
previous generations as it is seen as less intermit and not often regarded as

Adult Sexuality
Both men and women are physiologically capable of sexual behaviour well into
old age. Women retain this physiological capacity even longer than men yet they
are often less sexually active.
- often discouraged by social attitudes that views sexual activity in old age
as ridiculous or at least inappropriate – take a use it or loose it rule.
STI Cause and treatment Symptoms and side
Chlamydia Bacteria – antibiotics Slight discharge
Burning urination
Lower abdominal pain
Trichomoniasis Parasite – antibiotics Irritation/ itching
Painful urination
Pain in intercourse
Abdominal pain
Gonorrhea Bacteria – antibiotics discharge
(some resistant strains) painful urination

Genital Herpes Virus – treated not cured Discharge


Genital Warts Human papillomavirus Bumps in vagina, cervix

(HPV) – surgery or or vulva (possibly anus
cauterization of warts and mouth)
Syphilis Treponema pallidum Ulcerlike genital sores
bacteria – antibiotics also appear in mouth and
anal areas
Body rash
Flu like symptoms