Outline and evaluate the role of genes and hormones in gender development (24 marks).
The biological approach of gender development believes that an individual’s gender is decided at the same time that their sex is decided. An individual’s gender is influenced by their chromosomes and hormones. The pair of sex chromosomes dictates whether the foetus will be male or female. The female chromosome pair is XX and the male chromosome pair is XY. At about 6 weeks, the Y chromosome develops the gonads (sex organs) of the embryo into testes when testosterone is secreted. If testosterone is not secreted, the gonads will develop as ovaries. As they develop, the sex specific hormones oestrogen and testosterone will masculinise or feminise the foetus.
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A strength of the role of genes and hormones is that there is research to support that supports gender is caused by genes. Money (1975) studied David Reimer, whose gender was resigned when he was 6 months from male to female due to a botched circumcision. Money found that even after taking female hormones, David still felt males and resigned back to male after adolescence. Therefore this demonstrates that genes play a key role in gender development because David Reimer born a boy always felt like a male after reinsuring to female.
However, a weakness of this study is that it is a case study, this means that it lacks generalisability due to individual differences because it is a unique situation an makes it harder to replicate. in addition there could be researcher bias, as Money could have used his own feelings to influence the case study.
The the role of genes and hormones explanation of Gender can be seen as Deterministic. Determinism states that an aspect of human behaviour is ingrained in us and that we are pre-programmed robots allowing no room for an individual’s free will. The biological perspective suggests that a person’s gender is innate and the same as their biological sex, as it is determined by genetic makeup and hormonal influence at conception. Therefore, the biological approach only supports the deterministic approach, which does not allow any movement for the effect of free will on human gender identity and doesn’t apply for gender disruption.
A debate to raise here would be nature Vs nurture. Dr Moneys attempt to prove that the environment and the way you are reared was more important towards your gender development. However the research into David Reimer does not support this theory because although he was brought up as a female, he knew in his mind that he was male.