4. NATURE OR BIOLOGICAL APPROACH TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF GENDER ROLE
In the biological approach of viewing at development, the evolution of gender role looks at people as a result of genetic inheritance. Genes can control prenatal differences and behaviour, facial features and the sex. They also play a very important role in psychological differences such as dominance, aggression and interest in children.
Research conducted by Clark (1989) found out that, males and females do differ in brain structure. He studied the corpus callosum, which refers to 200 million nerve fibres that links the two hemispheres of brain. The study linked the relationship between the size of the parts of a corpus callosum and cognitive abilities of men and women. The outcome of the study is quite interesting; women’s score on verbal tests were negatively correlated to an area found to be larger in men. These findings should be interpreted cautiously as no relationship between brain structure and sex differences in cognitive processes and behaviour has been established yet.
It has been suggested that exposure to different patterns of hormones during development may result in differences in the development of brain (Hofman and Swaab 1991). There is little evidence showing the effect of such brain difference on gender behaviour. Experiments were carried out on rats and not humans, which is another factor to be considered.
The hormones were injected at a sensitive development period. This means that the development behaviour of these animals were artificially tampered. Similar experiments on humans are prohibited under ethical grounds, and hence the studies on animals fail to conclusively determine their implications for human development.
However, there are some other studies that support the conclusions of the above mentioned findings. For instance, Money and Erhardt (1972) and Hines (1982) studied children with congenital adrenogenital syndrome (CAS). These children had been exposed to hormones appropriate to the opposite sex when their mother received hormonal treatment during pregnancy. Females exposed to male hormones later exhibited more masculine gender role behaviour than a control group who were not exposed to opposite-sexed hormones.
Diamond (1965) criticised the study due to the fact that Erhardt and Money did not take into consideration the extent in which innate differences have to be overcome. The participants were predominantly twins and hence the outcome might not be applicable to the general population.
Also, the human nervous system is very flexible in that, it can adjust to the environmental influences in the early years of childhood (Money and Erhardt). Natural intervention cannot wholly be held responsible for the girlish behaviour of infants. Sex-typed learning plays a part as well.
4.2 CASE STUDY – A NORMAL TWIN BOY RAISED AS GIRL.
Money (1974) reported the case of normal monozygotic twin boys. One of these boys had his penis burned in a circumcision accident. His parents decided to raise him as a girl and was dressed as one and treated in the same way other girls were being treated. At the age of seventeen months, he was operated to change his sex and at puberty, he underwent hormonal treatment. In his early years, the response to the treatment was positive in that he showed interest to clothes, cleanliness and involvement in house work. His behaviour was appropriate to that of a girl. The ‘normal’ twin on the other hand developed as a boy as expected.
5. THE PYSCHOANALYTIC THEORY OF DEVELOPMENT OF GENDER ROLE.
This theory suggests that children learn about their gender at a very early stage of gender role development, when pleasure is derived from stimulation of sex organs. Infants become aware that, not everyone is like themselves in the body. This is the period when sexual desire for the opposite sex starts manifesting itself. This fact is based on Oedipus and Electra complexes and the beginning of identification. Gender role starts right from here.