Nature and Nurture

Topics: Gender, Nature versus nurture, Gender role Pages: 6 (1941 words) Published: April 28, 2011
Outline and evaluate the roles of both nature and nurture in Terms of influencing gender identity Introduction:
The terms nature-nurture debate in intelligence was concerned with the role of genes and the environment in determining measured intelligence which has inevitably centred on disputes about nature versus nurture. “During the nineteenth century, the relative effects of heredity (nature) and environment (nurture) on the development of intelligence suggested that heredity (that is genetic inheritance) or environment that is usually defined as all the experiences an individual is exposed to from the time of conception. Subsequently, this issue developed into probably the most controversial and divisive debate to be encountered in psychology”. (Galton, 1869, pp.496)

A gender role is a set of expectations that prescribe how males and females should think, act and feel. Although there are various approaches to explaining gender development, which are not reciprocally exclusive the effects of socialization, i.e. your parents and your norms, values and culture are social learning hypothesis, however, the changes in way a child thinks is the cognitive-developmental approach that suggested the biological factors which includes the psychoanalytic and evolutionary approaches. However, gender refers to the psychological characteristics associated with being male or female, whilst gender identity generates gender behaviour – behaviour like a male or female which depends on knowledge of ‘gender role’. For example, parents may encourage more traditional feminine behaviour in their sons by saying, ‘you look like a girl in that shirt or discourage the same in their daughters. (Smith and Lloyd, 1978, pp.1263-5)

At the same time, deviance in any society suggested that gender stereotypes portrayed in the media have a powerful influence on all of us, but especially on children who are acquiring their gender concepts. Moreover, a stereotype is a fixed, often simplistic picture of a group of people where cultural attitudes are communicated through a stereotype; for example, the image of a woman doing the washing-up is a stereotype that communicates an expectation about gender role in our society. (Williams, 1985, pp.263-87)

It has been said that development is about how the ‘biological’ infant turns into the ‘social’ adult. Throughout the history of psychology, there has been a tradition of separating out ‘heredity’ and ‘environment’, ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’, ‘biology’ and ‘society’ in attempt to explain how a child develops particular qualities and capacities. It is now generally accepted that development occurs through an interaction of biological factors (genetic programming) and social factors (the quality of the environment). This is by no means a simple proposition. There are two ways in which this interaction could be considered.

On the order hand, we could look at the skills a child is born with and watch how these skills develop and are influenced by particular experiences as the child matures. This is the general approach taken by those who have studied perceptual development and language development. Alternatively, we could look for ways in which the same environment might have different effects on children who are born with different characteristics. One important approach of this kind has involved the study of vulnerable children which has starting life with a particular handicap such as premature birth of ‘difficult’ temperament. The ‘resilient’ child will start life with a particular advantage, such as a sunny disposition. (Horowitz, 1987, pp.3-18)

At the same time, the study of how individuals develop a gender role or sex role has been a central concern of developmental psychologists for many years. Gender role development has been an important focus of debate within the major theories of psychology, and is a frequent target of the nature-nurture controversy which...

Bibliography: 1. Bem, S.L. (1989). General Knowledge and Gender Constancy in Pre-School Children, New York.
2. Bussey, K. and Bandura, A. (1992). Child Development, Macmillan, UK.
3. Galton, F. (1869). Heredity Genius: An inquiry into its Laws and Consequences, Second Edition, reprinted 1978. London: Julian Friedmann.
4. Horowitz, F.D. (1987). Exploring Developmental Theories: Towards a Structural/Behavioural Model of Development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
5. Howitt, D. and Owusu-Bempah, J. (1994). The Racism of Psychology. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
6. Huston, A.C. (1983). Sex-typing. In P.H. Mussen (ed.), Carmichael’s Manual of Child Psychology, Fourth Edition. New York: Wiley.
7. Matlin, M.W. (1993). The Psychology of Women, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
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