AQA A-Level Psychology Topics - Gender Evolution

May 22, 2017

AQA A-Level Psychology Topics: Gender Evolution

A-Level Psychology Topics: Gender Evolution

Another post in our series of blogs on Psychology A-level topics, today we consider gender evolution.

As the evolutionary approach is a biological one, it suggests that aspects of human behaviour have been coded by our genes because they were or are adaptive.

A central claim of evolutionary psychology is that the brain (and therefore the mind) evolved to solve problems encountered by our hunter-gatherer ancestors during the upper Pleistocene period over 10,000 years ago.

The evolutionary approach argues that gender role division appears as an adaptation to the challenges faced by the ancestral humans in the EEA (the environment of evolutionary adaptation).

The mind is therefore equipped with ‘instincts’ that enabled our ancestors to survive and reproduce.

The two sexes developed different strategies to ensure their survival and reproductive success. This explains why men and women differ psychologically:

They tend to occupy different social roles.

To support the evolutionary perspective, the division of labour was shown to be an advantage. 10,000 years ago there was division of labour between males and females. Men were the hunter gathers, breadwinners, while the mother was at home acting as the ‘angel of the house’ and looking after the children.

Hunting for food required speed, agility, good visual perception. So men developed this skill.

If a women were to hunt, this would reduce the group’s reproductive success, as the woman was the one who was pregnant or producing milk; although, the women could contribute to the important business of growing food, making clothing and shelter and so on. This enhances reproductive success but it also important in avoiding starvation – an additional adaptive advantage.

The Biosocial Approach to Gender

The biosocial approach (Money & Ehrhardt, 1972) is an interactionist approach where bynature and nurture both play a role in gender development.

John Money’s (1972) theory was that once a biological male or female is born, sociallabeling and differential treatment of boys and girls interact with biological factors to steer development. This theory was an attempt to integrate the influences of nature and nurture.

Gender role preferences determined by a series of critical events:

Biosocial theory of gender

Prenatal: exposure to hormones on the womb (determined by chromosomes). It states that biology caused by genetics, XY for a boy and XX for a girl will give them a physical sex.

Postnatal: Parents and others label and react towards a child on the basis of his or her genitals.

Parents and other people label and begin to react to the child based on his or her genitals. It is when their sex has been labelled through external genitals, they gender development will begin.

The social labelling of a baby as a boy or girl leads to different treatment, which produces the child’s sense of gender identity.

Western Societies view gender as having two categories, masculine and feminine, and see man and women as different species.

The way they are treated socially in combination with their biological sex will determine the child’s gender.

The approach assumes that gender identity is neutral before the age of 3, and can be changed, e.g. a biological boy raised as a girl will develop the gender identity of a girl. This is known as the theory of neutrality.

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