Nature Nurture Debate in Gender Development

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If a person displays masculine, feminine or androgynous behavior, then what determines this? The two main arguments are either gender is innate or it has been learnt. These two different perspectives represent a famous debate that occurs throughout psychology: the nature-nurture debate.

The nature side of the debate states that gender is biological. This would explain the strong relationship between the person’s sex and their gender. The theory is that because each sex shares the same physiology and anatomy, they have many psychological traits in common too. In the same way that genetics and hormones determine an individual’s sex, they also determine whether a person will behave in a more feminine or masculine way. Males are born masculine and females are born feminine. In other words, men and women, and girls and boys, are naturally different.

The physical differences between males and females (e.g genitals) serve an important evolutionary function. They allow males and females to come together and reproduce. The desire to reproduce and pass on genes is one of the basic instincts of any animal including human beings. On this basis, gender may also be instinctive. For example are women more careful and more caring because biologically they are the sex that has to carry and then care for children? Are men more aggressive and more competitive because biologically they are the sex that has to look after and provide for their partners and children? Indeed there is some evidence that women seek out such men when “choosing a mate”. Similarly, men are interested in women who are in a good position to provide them with offspring.

Cross-cultural research, such as Buss (1994), is useful in the nature-nurture debate. If a behavior is a product of human nature, then it should occur across the world regardless of experience and upbringing. For example, sleeping is a natural behavior and is therefore universal. Buss’s research indicates that sex-based mate...
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