Chapter 8: Sex Differences, Gender-Role Development, and Sexuality
Gender typing: the process by which children acquire not only a gender
identity but also the motives, values, and behaviours considered appropriate
in their culture for members of their biological sex.
Categorizing Males and Females: Gender-Role Standards
Gender-role standard: behaviour, value, or motive that members of a
society consider more typical or appropriate for members of one sex.
Expressive role: a social prescription, usually directed toward females, that
one should be cooperative, kind, nurturant and sensitive to the needs of
Instrumental role: a social prescription, usually directed toward males, that
one should be dominant, independent, assertive, competitive, and goal-
Some Facts and Fictions About Sex Differences
Adult Psychological Differences between the Sexes
Verbal ability: girls display greater verbal abilities than boys on many
Visual/spatial abilities: the ability to draw inferences about or to otherwise
mentally manipulate pictorial information. Boys outperform girls on some
Mathematical reasoning: boys show a small but consistent advantage over
girls on tests of arithmetic reasoning.
Aggression: boys are more physically aggressive than girls. Girls are more
likely than boys to display covert forms of hostility toward others by
snubbing or ignoring them.
Activity level: boys are more physically active than girls.
Fear, timidity, and risk-taking: girls appear to be more fearful or timid in
uncertain situations than boys are.
Developmental vulnerability: boys are more physically vulnerable than girls
to prenatal and perinatal hazards and to the effects of disease.
Emotional expressivity/sensitivity: boys are more likely than girls to display
one emotion—anger—whereas girls more frequently display most other
Compliance: girls are more compliant than boys to the requests and demands
of parents, teachers, and other authority figures.
Self-esteem: boys show a small edge over girls in global self-esteem.
Cultural Myths The persistence of unfounded or inaccurate gender-role stereotypes has
important consequences for both boys and girls.
Do Cultural Myths Contribute to Sex Differences in Ability (and Vocational
Self-fulfilling prophecy: one that promotes sex differences in cognitive
performance and steers boys and girls along different career paths.
Parents expect their sons to outperform their daughters in math.
Parents attribute their sons’ successes in math to ability but credit their
daughters’ successes to hard work.
Children begin to internalize their parents’ views, so that boys feel relatively
self-confident, whereas girls are somewhat more inclined to underestimate
both their general academic abilities.
Girls become less interested in math, value it less, are less likely to take
elective math courses, and become less inclined than boys to pursue career
possibilities that involve math after high school.
There is reason to suspect that many of the constraining stereotypes about
women’s competencies will eventually crumble as women achieve, in ever-
increasing numbers, in politics, professional occupations, the science, skilled
trades, and virtually all other walks of life.
Developmental Trends in Gender Typing
Gender identity: one’s awareness of one’s gender and its implications.
Development of the Gender Concept
The first step in the development of a gender identity is to discriminate
males from females and to place oneself into one of these categories.
Children normally begin to understand that sex is an unchanging attribute
between the ages of 5 and 7.
Development of Gender-Role Stereotypes
Toddlers begin to acquire gender-role stereotypes at about the same time
that they become aware of their basic identities as boys or girls. Just because grade-school children say that boys and girls can legitimately
pursue cross-sex interests and activities does not necessarily imply that they
approve of those who do.
There is a greater pressure placed on boys to conform to gender roles.
Western individualistic societies are becoming more flexible in their thinking
about many violations of gender stereotypes; the same pattern is not in
Adolescent Thinking about Gender Stereotypes
Gender intensification: a magnification of sex differences that is associated
with increased pressure to conform to gender roles as one reaches puberty.
Development of Gender-Typed Behaviour
Toddlers will often refuse to play with cross-sex toys, even when there are no
other objects available for them to play with.
Gender segregation: children’s tendency to associate with same-sex
playmates and to think of the other sex as an out-group.
Children who hold the more stereotyped views of the sexes are the ones most
likely to maintain gender segregation in their own play activities and to make
few if any opposite-sex friends.
Sex Differences in Gender-Typed Behaviour
Girls are more drawn to male activities and the masculine role during
Once girls reach puberty and their bodies assume a more womanly
appearance, girls often feel the need to become more feminine if they hope to
be attractive to members of the other sex.
Subcultural Variations in Gender Typing
Although not extensive, research on social-class and ethnic variations in
gender typing reveals that (1) middle-class adolescents (but not children)
hold more flexible gender-role attitudes than their low-SES peers and (2)
African-American children hold less stereotyped views of women than
European-American children do. Theories of Gender Typing and Gender-Role Development
Evolutionary psychologists contend that men and women faced different
evolutionary pressures over the course of human history and that natural
selection process conspired to create fundamental differences among males
and females that determined gender divisions of labor.
According to evolutionary theorists, males and females may be
psychologically similar in many ways but should differ in any domain in
which they have faced different adaptive problems throughout evolutionary
Criticisms of the Evolutionary Approach
Social-roles hypothesis: the notion that psychological differences between
the sexes and other gender-role stereotypes are created and maintained by
differences in socially assigned roles that men and women play (rather than
attributable to biologically evolved dispositions).
Money and Ehrhardt’s Biosocial Theory
Overview of Sexual Differentiation and Gender-Role Development
The first critical event occurs at conception as the child inherits either an X
or Y chromosome from the father.
The testes of the male embryo secrete two hormones—testosterone, which
stimulates the development of a male internal reproductive system, and
mullerian inhibiting substance (MIS), which inhibits the development of
Testicular feminization syndrome (TFS): a genetic anomaly in which a
male fetus is insensitive to the effects of male sex hormones and will develop
female-like external genitalia.
Evidence for Biological Influences on Gender-Role Development
Genetic factors may contribute to some sex differences in personality,
cognitive abilities, and social behaviour.
X-linked recessive traits: an attribute determined by recessive gene that
appears only on X chromosomes; because the gene determining these
characteristics is recessive (that is, dominated by other genes that might
appear at the same location on X chromosomes), such characteristics are more common among males, who have only one X chromosome; also called
Timing of puberty: the finding that people who reach puberty late perform
better on visual/spatial tasks than those who mature early.
Genes determine our biological sex and clearly have some influence on the
outcome of gender typing; it appears that much of the variability in people’s
gender-typed behaviours and their masculine and feminine