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Compare and contrast the accounts of 'sex' and 'gender' and the relationship between them that have been given by the biological, evolutionary, social constructionist and psychoanalytical perspectives.

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Option A Compare and contrast the accounts of 'sex' and 'gender' and the relationship between them that have been given by the biological, evolutionary, social constructionist and psychoanalytical perspectives In most societies, males and females generally behave differently, play distinctive roles and are treated and viewed differently. Many different perspectives seek to explain these differences between males and females. This paper will focus on and define the terms sex and gender. We will then examine key aspects of the biological, evolutionary, social constructionist and psychoanalytical perspectives focusing on similarities and differences regarding their accounts of sex and gender. Finally we will consider the ways in which these perspectives compliment, conflict or simply co-exist with one another. The terms sex and gender are often used interchangeably. This synonymous usage can lead to confusion so we will begin by attempting to draw a distinction between the terms for the purpose of discussing psychological perspectives in this paper. Traditionally, gender has been used to refer to the cultural aspect of what it is to be a man or a woman. Words such as 'womanly' or 'manly' and 'masculine' or 'feminine' are viewed as not being connected with a person's biological sex, but more as psychological characteristics shaped by individuals experience (EPoCH CD-ROM). The term sex is used solely when referring to biological and physical traits such as primary and secondary sex characteristics or specifically to 'sexual intercourse'. ...read more.


They interpreted these results as supporting the evolutionary theory that women and men evolved different strategies and consequently different behaviour, for reproductive success. The biological and evolutionary approaches are similar in that they view sex as the foundation of gender; however, social constructivists do not see gender as determined by sex. They strongly believe that a person's gendered behaviour is always constructed through the lens of their interpretation and understanding within their own historical and social contexts and therefore cannot be explained by their biological reproductive sex status alone (Hollway et al, 2003). Social constructivists believe that both sex and gender arise in social interaction and have no existence independent of social interaction. According to this perspective we actively construct the world we live in and this is an on-going process that changes from situation to situation (Phoenix, 2002). Our knowledge of gender is so deeply ingrained that it is difficult to see it as a socially constructed category nevertheless, gender is one of the most powerful constructed categories by which individuals define themselves (Hollway et al, 2003). Bem (1994, cited by Hollway et al, 2003, Pg. 141) believes that 'masculinity and femininity are socially and culturally constructed dimensions that inform all the forms of our thinking, emotional experience and behaviour'. In addition to historical and cultural influences on gender behaviours the media and the school curriculum portray male and female roles in gender stereotypic ways. ...read more.


Due to changing times many psychologists have come to believe that most people possess a combination of characteristics that until recently have been traditionally viewed as either masculine or feminine. According to Bem (1974, cited by Hollway et al, 2003) most people are androgynous, that is, they possess both masculine and feminine psychological characteristics. Thus far we have examined four different perspectives in relation to sex and gender and clearly no one perspective can explain the psychology of sex and gender. From a methodological standpoint it is difficult to integrate the differing perspectives. Both biological and evolutionary psychologies embrace the scientific, quantitative approach whereas the social constructivists and psychoanalysts use a qualitative approach focusing on interpretation of meaning. As these methods are so fundamentally different it is most likely that, rather than conflicting, they simply co-exist with one another. The way these perspectives interact can be seen as complimentary for example, as we have discussed, it is accepted that generally individuals are sexed by biology and gendered by social influences. The psychoanalytic theory can be seem as conflicting with the social construction theory in the focus on unconscious (psychoanalytic) versus conscious experience (social constructivists). As can be seen, humans are complex creatures rarely explainable in terms of a single type of influence. The accounts of sex and gender discussed are from four diverse perspectives and it is only by exploring how these interact with one another that we can gain a genuine understanding of the psychology of sex and gender. ...read more.

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