Mrs. Hamilton

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Gender and Development

Gender-role development is one of the most important areas of human development. The moment a women finds out she is pregnant she is often anxious to find out the sex of her child. The definitions of the terms "sex" and "gender" need to be understood. The term "sex" denotes the actual physical makeup of individuals that define them as male or female. Sex is determined by genetic makeup, internal reproductive organs, the organization of the brain, and external genitalia. The behavior of individuals as males or females, the types of roles they assume, and their personality characteristics, may be just as important as a person's biological framework. In order to differentiate between biological features one may take into consideration behaviors and social roles to establish "gender." Sex and gender are often intertwined, and certain social expectations can be attributed to one’s biological sex. The sex of a newborn sets the agenda for a whole array of developmental experiences that will influence the person throughout his or her life. Overall, the sex differences between boys and girls in the first year of life are minimal. Boys may be a bit more active or fussier and girls more physically mature and less prone to physical problems, but that may be the extent of the significant differences. Mothers have a tendency to ignore more of their son's emotional outbursts in comparison to their daughters' outbursts. Boys may be rough-housed or played with in a more aggressive manor as well. This goes in line with stereotyping males as more hardy or tough and girls as gentle and soft. A parent can influence their child into these gender roles by the way they discipline. They may be harder on a boy than a girl for the exact same behavior. "Children see what their parents do. Children learn when they try to imitate their parents (Putnam, Myers-Walis; Love, p. 1)." For example, a boy may grow up seeing his father fix things around the house and his mother being the one who always cooks dinner. Parents may also assign specific chores to the children according to sex, thus reinforcing gender roles in their development. Another way a parent influences gender development is by what they say to their children. Making comments about girls do this or boys do that supports the gender stereotypes. Gender roles development is crucial around ages 2-6 years when children are becoming aware of their gender, where play styles and behaviors begin to crystallize around that core identify of "I am a girl" or "I am a boy." Typically males have been thought to be more aggressive than males; however, in a study reported by the American Psychological Association, Inc., reveals "our interpretation of these results emphasizes that aggression sex difference are a function of perceived consequences of aggression that are learned as aspects of gender roles and other social roles (Eagly; Steffen, 1986)." How a parent teaches the child and role models aggression, play, chores, and toys may have more of a factor of gender roles than being biologically male or female. The areas of gender differences include brain development where there are fewer connections between hemispheres, right brain reliance on space/movement, single focus, sexual response, and emotional response. Males hear less at higher decibels then females and tend to hear better in one ear than the other. Testosterone levels are different as well including a correlation between the amount of testosterone and higher energy and aggression, sex drive, and higher amounts throughout the teenaged years. "Male babies, on average, are born slightly longer and heavier than female babies. Newborn girls, on the other hand, have slightly more mature skeletons and are a bit more responsive to touch (Craig; Dunn, 2010, p. 188)." By age 2 ½, most children can readily distinguish between male and female, and accurately answer the question of whether they are a boy or a girl. "Gender-role...
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