Biological Theories

In recent years, gender development researchers have called for an increased recognition of the integrative role of biological factors in the production of sex differences (e.g., Alexander, 2003; Kenrick & Luce, 2000; Maccoby, 2000, 2002b; Ruble & Martin, 1998; Zucker, 2001). Biological approaches to gender development have focused on issues ranging from the role of genes and hormones to the effects of evolution on sex differences in behavior. For example, research on the effects of hormones is generally based on the view that sex differentiated exposure to prenatal and/or postnatal hormones can cause behavioral and ability differences in males and females (see Collaer & Hines, 1995, and Berenbaum, 2002). One program of research that has shown promising results in this area has involved the investigation of girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Individuals with CAH have a genetic condition that results in the overproduction of androgenic steroids during prenatal development. In addition to having either fully or partly masculinized external genitalia, girls with CAH have been shown to engage in more male-typical childhood play and have more masculine interests in adolescence and adulthood when compared to control samples (see Zucker, 2001 and Berenbaum, 2002). It is possible though that the masculinized behaviors of CAH girls may be partly due to socialization or cognitive responses to the ambiguous genitalia or overall condition (see Zucker, 2001, p. 108). Thus, future research that actively accounts for these factors is likely to produce interesting findings regarding the integrative and unique influences of biology.

Another biological perspective that has gained interest in recent years concerns evolutionary explanations of sex differences. Proponents of this view believe that sex-typed behavior is partly due to the differential demands and inherited adaptive strategies that have been linked to males and females during the ancestral past (see Kenrick & Luce, 2000). This perspective has been used to interpret sex differences in mate preferences (e.g., Buss & Schmitt, 1993 ; Trivers, 1972) and jealousy (e.g., Buss, Larsen, Westen, & Semmelroth, 1992) and, more recently, researchers have been using evolutionary principles to explain sex segregation (Maccoby, 2000, 2002b) and sex-typed toy preferences (Alexander, 2003) in childhood. For example, Alexander (2003) proposes that the categories of "masculine" and "feminine" toys have been partly influenced by evolved perceptual preferences (e.g., movement, color) that have had differential adaptive significance for males and females.

Joy Of Modern Parenting Collection

Joy Of Modern Parenting Collection

This is a collection of parenting guides. Within this collection you will find the following titles: Issues, rule and discipline, self esteem and tips plus more.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment