Hormones and Gender
Development
Chromosomes initially determine a person’s sex
but most gender development is actually
gov...
brain. For example females are known to be better
at socialising and empathising, whereas males are
said to be better at s...
Genetics and Gender
Development
In the first few weeks after conception there are
no structural differences between geneti...
Biology explains how an individual acquires their
sex genetically. It may also explain some aspects
of gender (a person’s ...
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  1. 1. Hormones and Gender Development Chromosomes initially determine a person’s sex but most gender development is actually governed by hormones. They are produced both prenatally (e.g. testosterone) and in adolescence (puberty).Hormones influence the development of genitalia and/or affect the development of the brain, both of which influence gender behaviour. Testosterone is the male sex hormone which is produced by the testes and contributes to the development of the male reproductive system. Testosterone initiates the process of puberty including the growth of facial hair, deepening of the voice and muscle growth. Estrogen is the female sex hormone produced in the ovaries and stimulates the widening of the hips, the onset of menstruation, and the growth of sex organs, breasts and pubic hair. Between four and eight weeks after conception the gonads start to release hormones. In males the testes are instructed to release testosterone which acts on the hypothalamus of the brain. Without testosterone the brain would develop in the female form (Green, 1995). In the female, hormone release from the ovaries is slight. Differences in brain structure result from the release of hormones. Geshwind and Galaburda (1987) argue that sex differences are caused by the release of testosterone. Male brains are exposed prenatally to more testosterone than female brains and this leads to a masculinised
  2. 2. brain. For example females are known to be better at socialising and empathising, whereas males are said to be better at special navigation (Hoag, 2008). The effects of testosterone on brain development have been tested and confirmed through animal studies. Quadagno et al. (1997) found that female monkeys deliberately exposed to testosterone during prenatal development, later engaged in more rough and tumble play than normal females.
  3. 3. Genetics and Gender Development In the first few weeks after conception there are no structural differences between genetically male and genetically female embryos. Both male and females have two rigid of tissue, called gonadal ridges from which the male and female sexual organs will develop. Each person has 23 chromosomes, each of these chromosomes carry hundreds of genes containing instructions on physical and behavioural characteristics. One pair of chromosomes (the 23rd ) are the sex chromosomes, because they determine an individual’s sex. The male pair of chromosomes are known as XY and the female pair are known as XX. If an embryo inherits an X chromosome from both parents it will become a girl and if it inherits an X from the mother and a Y from the father, it will become a boy. There is a direct link between an individual’s chromosomal sex (XX and XY) and their external genitalia (vagina or penis) and internal genitalia (ovaries and testes). During prenatal development all individuals look the same – and embryos have genitalia that externally look feminine. At about 6 weeks, a gene on the Y chromosome, the SRY gene, causes the gonads (sex organs) of the embryo to develop as Testes. If the embryo has no Y chromosome, it will not have the SRY gene, without the SRY gene, the gonads will develop as ovaries. The testes and ovaries begin to produce different levels of sex hormones which affect gender development.
  4. 4. Biology explains how an individual acquires their sex genetically. It may also explain some aspects of gender (a person’s sense of whether they are male or female) because of the link between genes and genitalia and hormones. Babies can be born with atypical sex chromosomes. For example some baby boys have an extra X chromosome (XXY). Interestingly, such boys grow up to have more feminine traits as well as more female looking bodies. This shows that chromosomes can have a significant on gender.

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