Chapter summary imageAre we more than our X and Y chromosomes?

WHAT ARE THE BIOLOGICAL AND SOCIETAL INFLUENCES ON GENDER?

  • X and Y chromosomes control a person’s sex—the biological categorization of that person as either male or female.
  • Sex roles and conditioning affect the behaviours and characteristics that define gender, and a person’s gender identity can be fluid. This socialization of gender begins at birth and continues throughout the lifespan. The gender learning theory and the gender schemata theory explain the many ways we learn to be a specific gender.
  • Therefore, sex is biologically determined, whereas gender is environmentally determined.

WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL AND ATYPICAL PROCESSES INVOLVED IN AN INDIVIDUAL’S DEVELOPMENT OF A GENDER IDENTITY?

  • Typically, a child has male or female genitals at birth and develops secondary sexual characteristics during puberty. An individual identifies with either gender based on these biological characteristics and the responses they receive from others.
  • Atypically, a person can be born with ambiguous genitalia. A person born with one set of sexual characteristics may identify with the opposite sex and choose gender reassignment surgery.
  • Some individuals experience gender identity disorder, a feeling that they are born in the body of the wrong sex.
  • Androgynous individuals consider themselves to be equal in male and female traits.
  • Sexism can arise when we hold strict and unchanging views of what men and women can do, known as gender stereotypes.

WHAT SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE GENDERS HAVE BEEN OBSERVED AND STUDIED?

  • Women tend to be shorter than men. They generally have more fat and less muscle than men do, and they tend to live longer.
  • The male brain seems to be thicker in areas related to spatial abilities, while the female brain seems to be thicker in areas related to verbal abilities.
  • In general, men tend to be aggressive and socially dominant, and women tend to value interdependence and social connectedness.
  • In Canada, women make less money than men, are employed less often, and hold fewer high-powered managerial positions.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE BIOLOGICAL AND SOCIETAL INFLUENCES ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION?

  • Early psychological research suggested that people’s sexuality depended largely on their upbringing.
  • Most current research suggests that sexual orientation is largely biological in origin, dependent on such factors as genetics and birth order.