Monday, November 5, 2012

Gender Role Development

Biologically speaking, an individual's chromosomal configuration and hormones play significant role in gender development. Although that may sound like 8th grade biology class, the role that biology plays should not be understated (Santrock, 2008). People's perceptions regarding gender and the gendered roles that are typical and expected influence people's lives, opportunities, and tendencies (Cobb, Walsh, & Priest, 2009). Estrogens are primary female hormones and androgens are primarily responsible for development in males. Sex hormones, however, are not the sole determiners of gendered behavior (Santrock, 2008).

I thought it was particularly interesting to read one discussion of environmental factors from an evolutionary perspective (Santrock, 2008). This perspective suggests men had to compete for resources so evolved in favor of violence, competition, and risk taking, which seems somewhat linear, but it is interesting. Violence and anger have been seen as the side effects of testosterone, an evolutionary leftover that supported men in their ability to hunt and provide food for the tribe (Aromaki, Lindman, & Eriksson, 1999). Historically, unbalanced hormones have been the suspected underpinnings of deviant and abnormal behavior in both genders (Aromaki, Lindman, & Eriksson, 1999; Peterson & Harmon-Jones, 2011).

Although a complex and fairly unidentifiable balance, social as well as cultural factors play influential roles in gender development (Santrock, 2008). The gender schema theory (which seems relatively limited) says that children organize information according to what is and isn't appropriate for their gender within their cultural or social context, which subsequently influences worldview and places salience on issues related to their gender (Santrock, 2008). Some research suggests peer relationships cause children to conform to normal expectations of gender, especially when children are harassed by peers (Lee & Troop-Gordon, 2011). Conformity may help the child escape further harassment.

Gender roles are inextricably intertwined with identity, and can change during life events such as when people become parents. During this transition, people may become more traditional in their attitudes and beliefs, although in this circumstance, women appear to change more than men (Katz-Wise, Priess, & Hyde , 2010). These changes may be partly because of biological changes (specifically hormones) in the female, but also a product of social and cultural expectations related to the forthcoming roles of the new parents.

I agree with Best (2009) that when perceived through a variety of approaches, the various dimensions of gender become a little easier to understand and appreciate. Biology, such as genetics and hormones, evolution, the media and socialization experiences in childhood and later on all play a role in gender development.


Aromaki, A. S., Lindman, R. E., & Eriksson, C. P. (1999). Testosterone, aggressiveness, and antisocial personality. Aggressive Behavior, 25(2), 113-123. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2337(1999)25:23.0.CO;2-4

Best, D. L. (2009) Another view of the gender-status relation. Sex Roles, 61, 341–351. doi: 10.1007/s11199-009-9629-1

Cobb, R. A., Walsh, C. E., & Priest, J. B. (2009). The cognitive-active gender role identification continuum. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 21, 77–97. doi: 10.1080/08952830902911339

Katz-Wise, S. L., Priess, H. A., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). Gender-role attitudes and behavior across the transition to parenthood. Developmental Psychology, 46(1), 18–28. doi: 10.1037/a0017820

Lee, C. A. E., & Troop-Gordon, W. (2011). Peer processes and gender role development: Changes in gender atypically related to negative peer treatment and children’s friendships. Sex Roles, 64, 90–102.

Peterson, C. K., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2011). Anger and testosterone: Evidence that situationally-induced anger relates to situationally-induced testosterone. Emotion. doi: 10.1037/a0025300

Santrock, J. W. (2011). A topical approach to life-span development (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

No comments:

Post a Comment