This paper approaches the topic from a consideration of psychological research in the fields of sex and gender and language. It does so in general terms and avoids discussion at levels of detail. Therefore where a reference is made to specific research the intention is to do no more than exemplify a general principle. The paper will conclude that different perspectives in psychology do at times co-exist, though complement and conflict are frequent. It will suggest the lack of a decisive answer is a result of the relative immaturity of Psychology as a discipline and a concomitant lack of adequately powerful theories that might serve to unite otherwise disparate perspectives.
A consideration of how psychology approaches the study of sex and gender reveals, amongst others, four significant theoretical perspectives that are for the most part quite distinct in terms of their objects of knowledge and consequent methods of analysis. Biological psychology is concerned with explaining the differences between male and female in terms of hormones, genes and brain structure. It is mechanistic, with a strong empirical tradition. Evolutionary psychology attempts to explain differences between sexes in terms of behavioural selection for reproductive fitness. Whilst in large part necessarily theoretical, it embraces empirical methods as a means of testing theories. Social constructionist psychology approaches sex and gender through the study of discourse in various historical, cultural and social contexts and so is hermeneutic. Finally psychoanalytic psychology primarily uses clinical observation and the study of infants to gather evidence of how humans acquire and develop a sense of sex and gender (cited in Holloway et al, 2007, pp.127ff). (6)
The immediate impression from the above is that the scope for complement, conflict or co-existence