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Gender Identity Paper

Essay by   •  March 26, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,583 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,849 Views

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Before a baby is born, parents are oftentimes eager to learn the sex of the child for future planning regarding names, room decorations, and even career aspirations. From that point onward, nature and nurture join hand-in-hand to develop the child into an individual fitted as a male or female within society. Biological, psychological, and emotional changes occur differently for each sex, however the socialization or upbringing is subjective depending on what gender is exhibited by the individual child (Swaab & Alicia, 2009). Sometimes sex and gender are not identical, and this disparity causes many psychologists, neuroscientists, and parents many a sleepless night.

This paper discusses how sex, gender identity, and gender role is inter-twined with hormones to develop males and females. The topic is separated into the following sections: the interaction of hormones and behavior in affecting the determination of gender identity, roles of nature and nurture on sexual differentiation and gender identity, discussion of how nurture is more persuasive then nature on gender identity, and the current arguments about sexual identity.

Hormones, Nature, and Nurture

The interaction between hormones and behavior is not straight-forward, but rather circular and dynamic. Both males and females have each other's hormones, but the differences become more apparent within two hormonal surge stages. The prenatal surge is followed by the adolescent surge, and the second surge's function is to enhance the early predispositions created by the first surge (Miller, Donner, Fraser, 2004). As hormones travel through the bloodstream, the hormones produce physical and mental effects separate to each sex (Bailey, Dunne, Martin, 2000). For instance, an increase in estrogen eventually produces a menstrual cycle for female. On the other hand, an increase in testosterone increases semen production in males. However, not just the biological factor is altered by hormones, but also the behavioral reaction of each sex as well. As hormones increase in females, behaviors that began at infancy like verbal skills in females and spatial skills in males are enhanced respectively.

Hormones are messengers, and behavior is an outcome of a combination of hormones and supportive behaviors from the individual's surroundings and environment. As a child grows to see behaviors of one sex (i.e. the mother), the child mimics and imitates the behavior of the sex that is most closely similar to its' own sex. A female child receives positive reinforcement when behaving like a female, and thus perpetuates that behavior. When the behaviors become natural to the child, the gender role is discovered first before gender identity. The gender role is a subject to the environment because the child has no other role models but what is in the immediate environment. The gender model is taken as either/or by the child, and learns that the physical or biological attributes is prevalent in one gender over the other. When the child finds differences or similarities, the behaviors are associated closely with that gender role. As the child grows, gender identity becomes deeply personal and personalized to the individual, and the choice is further made to continue being male or female.

Nature or Nurture

Based on the evaluation from the previous section, the greater influence on gender identity comes for nurture and not as much from nature. Nature is referred to as the sex of the individual and is the biological term in defining the functional, reproductive differences of the sexes (Wilson & Liu, 2003). A majority of individuals born exhibit physical attributes of a certain sex with males having external reproductive organs (i.e. penis) and females with internal reproductive organs (i.e. ovaries and uterus)(Wilson & Liu, 2003). However, gender is less about biology and more about psychological and behavioral mannerisms that fit a sex. Gender identity is how the individual sees themselves as a particular sex, while gender role is how society sees that individual within a masculine or feminine archetype (Littrell, 2008). Society is built on order and normalization of behavior within the individual for the greater good of the group. Because societies cannot function without this normalization, rules and regulations keep the individuals adhering to a specific way of behavior.

Thus, society provides instant and continuous feedback on how "masculine" or "feminine" an individual should act according to their sex. Masculine individuals or boys are impressed with behaviors normal for the sex, which includes being hands-on, tough, emotionally controlled, and aggressive (Littrell, 2008). This nurturing begins from having stronger, bolder colors like blue or red as the male infant's clothing and room color choice. It continues through prompting of playing with blocks and trucks as infants and sports for toddlers and teenagers. The nurturing covers everything from language (i.e. such a strong boy) to conditioned response behaviors (i.e. no crying when hurt physically or emotionally). Without it, the individual may have the physical attributes of a male, but has no idea what the social meaning of being a male entails.

Although this debate on nature versus nurture rages

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