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Gender is a psychological term, which refers to our awareness and reaction to biological sex. It is also a fundamental part of our learning concept.

Gender is influenced by many things, which include:

Biological Influences

Such as, Genetics, Estrogens and Androgens.

Social Influences

Such as,

 Identification theory, which is:

  1. Sexual attraction to the opposite sex
  2. Anxiety about sexual attraction
  3. Identification with same sex parent- adapting there characteristics

 Social learning theory, which is:

  1. Learning through observation
  2. Rewards & punishments received for gender appropriate / inappropriate behaviour.

 And Media stereotyping

Cognitive development theory

This is when gender typing occurs after a child has developed a concept of gender.


Gender Schema theory

This is when, behaviour and attention are guided by motivation and the child has understanding of gender consistency and they know that a person’s sex will always stay the same despite the changing of clothes etc.

There are biological roots to our behaviour, in fact behavioural genetics has provided us with lots of information regarding the roles of individual genes in the implementation of behaviour. Even events before birth can contribute to determining sex behaviour as adults and in gender identity.

There is an ongoing debate centred on the effects of androgens and estrogens during a Childs development in the womb. Hormones present during critical developmental stages could affect the development of gender role behaviours.

The androgens affect males by controlling the onset of puberty, biological fertility etc and the estrogens are important to females hormones which control the timing of biological maturity and menstruation. Girls exposed to higher levels of androgen are defeminized in sex type interests, abilities and behaviour, but not core gender identity.

“Some studies by John Money and his colleagues have been made of girls whose mothers received excessive amounts of androgens during pregnancy (to reduce the likelihood of miscarriage) .The babies developed Androgential Syndrome. As they grew they tended to be more aggressive and “tomboyish”, and less feminine. They preferred male activities with male company and expressed more interest in a career than in having a family.”

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(G.C Davenport, ESSENTIAL PSYCHOLOGY, chapter five, page 116.)

When a child is born their gender role (set of expectations to say how they should think, act, feel.) is based on their gender identity (sense of being male/female), which is usually based on what sex the child’s genitalia reflects.

When we look at children who have Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, it is interesting to see that some individuals develop in a feminine direction and acquire a sense of identity as female but others are brought up as males. The child’s upbringing was based purely on judgements about their genitals, which ...

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