Research Proposal on Developmental Psychology
Developmental psychology: What is the difference between sex and gender? How does the latter develop?1. Introduction
During last several decades the word “gender” is being more and more frequently utilized as the synonym of the word “sex”. Even though from the first glance two words seem rather similar in their meanings and they can be interchangeably used in the conversation- it makes little difference, but from the standpoint of psychological understanding of the identity, they appear to be quite different.
In this research paper I will provide the definition and accurate description of both terms, as well as describe how gender is developed.
2. Sex and Gender
The distinction between two terms “sex” and “gender” in English language was basically developed about a half a century ago, in the early 1950s by American and British psychiatrists that worked with transsexual and intersex patients.
The term sex is usually used for the definition of matter that is related to biology or to the medicine. The sex of the human being is generally defined by the gametes it produces, as males produce male gametes or sperm, and females produce female gametes or egg cells. So, sex sets the distinction between people that is related to their genetic, biological and physical differences. From stand point and definition, sex is something that a person cannot change, as it is based on nature. On the other hand, gender is said to be more flexible, fluid and based on the environment and culture the person is living. World Health Organization (2001) defined gender as social, economic and cultural attributes, as well as opportunities that are normally associated with male and female roles in the particular environment and particular time point.
Understanding of the key difference between “sex” and “gender” is very helpful for the psychological identity understanding and distinguishing between roles males and females perform in their lives. It was historically stipulated that many of the roles the person performs are sex related.
By ‘role’ I mean the behavioral patterns that are learned in accordance with some social script (Gagnon and Simon, 1973). Males and their roles are usually associated with dangerous occupations and situations where they are supposed to show their physical strength and females and their roles are associated with raising children and cooking. As time goes by, the distinction between roles is being more and more blurred, as their duties and jobs are mixed and know we can easily imagine a man who is taking care of a child and a woman who is earning money for the whole family.
Many of social and cultural differences in those behavioral standards that are associated with male and female genders have become to be recognized and accepted as societal constructs- abstractions that bring definite classification and expectations. A man in the Western world and a man in African, for instance, countries mean different things, as well as a woman. This cultural flexibility is central to the gender definition, as to this extent, gender is something variable that can be shifted and changed in different times and contexts (Foucault 1980).
The distinction between sex and gender is extremely important to transsexuals and intersexuals, as values of these two groups are centered on sex and gender values again may vary and be different. The clear distinction of the notions cannot be provided without the understanding of the supportive notions of identity, sexual identity, gender identity and gender roles.
Identity is generally referred to as the psychological term, even though frequently used in everyday conversations. Usually people identify themselves whether being homosexual or heterosexual.
People can also recognize or identify themselves as being transsexual or intersexual without meaning specification. Sexual identity is related to whether an individual views himself or herself as a female or male. Basically this identification is formed on the physical appearance of the person and is usually connected to the sexual roles the person performs, develops or which the society tries to impose on him or her. On the other side, gender identity is said to be the recognition of the social gender that is attributed to the person. Generally speaking the female is perceived a girl and subsequently and woman and this terms are associated with attached cultural expectations. The same is with boys and men. Boys and men, and girls and women differ from each other with social expectation and the level of maturity. Gender identity can be also defined as the private experience of gender role, or the inner realization of self-identity (Stoller, 1968).
Gender roles are often referred to as the idea of the society on how boys and girls are expected t behave and how should they be treated. A gender role is the public manifestation of the gender identity. Roughly speaking sex is something between one’s legs and gender is something between one’s ears. A sex role basically presumes acting of the biological predisposition of the individual. In young men it is associated with being more aggressive, competitive and combative then young women. Young females usually show more compassion and reveal compromising behavior, which is not inherent to young men. These can be also called sex-typical behavioral patterns.
As I have already mentioned, gender roles are those imposed by society, overtly or covertly. As girls from the early childhood learn to keep their knees together, take care of clothes, take care of children, playing with dolls, take care of house and apply cosmetics. While boys actively train brains to memorize rules of games and sports, show their strength in street fights and do not really care about the cleanness of their rooms.
Al previously discussed issues are very tightly connected with the sexual orientation of the individual. Sexual orientation is referred to the sex of the partner the person prefers in life (this can be affectionate or erotic). Orientation can be homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. By the way there is no such a term as gender orientation, as individuals involve their reproductive organs for sexual contacts and this is how their preferences and the orientation is being formed. Understanding of the notion of sexual orientation is very helpful in the understanding of the core difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. So, the term homosexual refers to those people who are having constant sexual contacts with the people of the same sex (sex and not gender); heterosexual individuals prefer to have sexual contacts always or almost always with people of the opposite sex. The term bisexual refers to those who are having more or less sexual activities with people of both sexes. It is important to mention that individuals that are engaged in homosexual relationships do not necessarily reveal any associated gender or sexual identities. For example, men that have homosexual relationships can feel absolutely comfortable in their male bodies and have no gender atypical behavioral patterns. The same can be with lesbians, which can feel satisfied with their gender and sex roles.
In the conclusion I would like to summarize that sex is referred to individual’s biological structure, while gender is more society and culture related issue. Gender is also associated with the opportunities with being a man or a woman in the particular environment and particular time. Gender is being formed from the individual’s childhood when he or she is being taught their future social roles.
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