Chapter 14 - Sex Differences and Similarities, Gender-Role Development, and Sexual
- Sex refers to a person’s biological identity: his or her chromosomes, physical manifestations
of identity, and hormonal influences.
- Gender refers to a person’s social and cultural identity as male or female
- Gender-typing: Process by which a child becomes aware of his or her gender and acquires
motives, values, and behaviors considered appropriate for members of that sex.
Categorizing Males and Females: Gender-Role Standards
- Gender-role standard: behavior, value, or motive that members of a society consider more
typical or appropriate for members of one sex.
- Female’s role childbearer Girls are encouraged to assume an expressive role: social
prescription, usually directed toward females, that one should be cooperative, kind, nurturant,
and sensitive to the needs of others.
- Boys are encouraged to adopt an instrumental role: social prescription, usually directed
toward males, that one should be dominant, independent, assertive, competitive, and goal-
- Achievement and self-reliance more encouraged in boys, whereas nurturant, responsible and
obedient are more encouraged in girls.
Some Facts and Fiction about Sex Differences
Actual Psychological Differences between the Sexes
- Girls have greater verbal ability than boys
- Girls acquire language and develop verbal skills at an earlier age than boys
- Advantage in speech fluency and reading comprehension
- Boys outperform girls on test of visual/spatial abilities: ability to draw inferences about or
otherwise mentally manipulate pictorial information.
- In adolescence, boys show a small advantage over girls on tests of arithmetic reasoning.
- Girls exceed boys in computational skills
- Boys have acquired more mathematical problem-solving strategies that enable them to
outperform girls on geometry
- Boys are more physically and verbally aggressive than girls starting at age 2.
- Girls however are more hostile than boys by snubbing or ignoring other people
- Boys are more physically active than girls as soon as they are born
Fear, Timidity, and Risk-Taking
- As early as 1 year of age, girls appear to be more fearful or timid than boys in uncertain
- Also more cautious and less assertive in these situations than boys
1 Developmental Vulnerability
- From conception, boys are more physically vulnerable than girls to prenatal and perinatal
hazards and to the effects of disease.
- Boys are also more likely to display a range of developmental problems, including reading
disabilities, speech defects, hyperactivity, emotional disorders, and mental retardation.
- As infants, boys and girls do not differ much in their displays of emotion
- From toddlerhood onward, boys are more likely than girls to display one emotion-anger-
whereas girls more frequently display most other emotions.
- In the preschool period, girls are more compliant than boys with the requests and demands of
parents, teachers, and other authority figures.
- Big myth notions that females are more sociable, suggestible, and illogical, and less
analytical and achievement oriented than males.
Do Cultural Myths Contribute to Sex Differences in Ability (and Vocational Opportunity)?
- Self-fulfilling prophecy: Phenomenon whereby people cause others to act in accordance
with the expectations they have about those others.
- Parents expect sons to outperform sons in math
- Parents attribute their sons’ successes in math to ability but credit their daughters’ successes
to hard work.
- Boys feel self-confident are girls are somewhat more anxious
- Thinking they lack ability, girls become less interested in math, less likely to take math
courses, and less likely than boys to pursue careers in that field
- Teachers believe that boys have more ability in math but that girls try harder at it
Developmental Trends in Gender Typing
- Gender Identity: One’s awareness of one’s gender and its implications
- 4 months of age, infants have already begun to match male and female voices with faces
- By the end of the first year, they can discriminate photographs of males and females and their
- Between age 2 and 3, children begin to tell you what they know about gender as they start
using words such as “mommy” and “daddy” and “boy” and “girl”/
- By age 2 ½ - 3, children can label themselves as boy or girl
- 3 - 5 year old, have a hard time understand that gender is a permanent thing, they believe that
girls can become “daddies” if they really want to
- Age 5 - 7, children understand that sex is permanent
Gender-Role Stereotypes: Ideas about what males and females are supposed to be like
- Age 2 ½, children can do this fine
- Gender intensification: Magnification of sex differences of early in adolescence; associated
with increased pressure to conform to traditional gender roles.
2 Gender-Typed Patterns of Behavior: Child’s tendency to favor same-sex activities over those
normally associated with the other sex.
- 2 year old girls prefer to play with other girls
- Gender segregation: Children’s tendency to associate with same-sex playmates and to think
of the other sex as an out-group.
- Children that prefer cross-sex friendships are more likely to be rejected by their peers.
- All the way up to puberty, after puberty, girls and boys start developing an interest in the
- Gender segregation is said to happen because of the different play styles between boys and
girls. Boys are rougher and louder whereas girls are more quiet and organized in their play.
- Boys are quicker to adopt gender-typed toys; father would give daughter a truck to play with
but would never give a son a doll to play with.
- Age 3 to 5, boys can say that they dislike opposite sex toys
Theories of Gender Typing and Gender-Role Development
- Natural selection process conspired to create fundamental differences between males and
females that determined gender divisions of labor.
- Males can produce many offspring with their sperm dominant beings, whereas females
have to carry a baby for 9 months nurturing, caring beings
- Males have better spatial skills due to a long time ago, they had to hunt for food for their
- Girl raised in an all-boy environment, 4-8 year olds said that she would still engage in female
activities, showing that an essential bias is more important. Only 9-10 year olds said that
growing up in a masculine environment would influence her activities, aspirations, and
- Ignores differences that are limited to particular cultures or historical periods
- Social roles hypothesis: Psychological sex differences do not reflect biologically evolved
dispositions. Instead they emerge because of variations in roles that cultures assign to men
and women (provider/homemaker), and on agreed-upon socialization practices to promote
traits in boys and girls (assertion/nurturance) to properly enact these roles
- A number of critical episodes or events affect a person’s eventual preference for the
masculine or feminine gender role.
- First critical event is whether the child receives an X or Y chromosome from the father
- Once the child is born, social factors immediately come into play. People label and begin to
react to the child based on the appearance of his or her genitals
How much influence do biological factors have on behavior?
- Personality, cognitive abilities, and social behavior are highly linked to genetic factors
- Suspect that most of the developmental disorders most commonly seen in boys may be X-
linked recessive traits
- Timing-of-puberty e