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Psychological and Sociological Perspectives of Gender b.ed notes

Psychological and Sociological Perspectives of Gender| Gender School And Society 

What is Perspective?

In simple words - An opinion or attitude towards something.

It is the ability to think about a particular problems or issues ,understanding its various causes and making conclusions or decisions , without any bias or preconceptions in a reasonable way without exaggerating them.

So when we talk about the Sociological or Psychological perspective of Gender we mean :-

"Analysing / inspecting the origin of gender, understanding the conditions / state that lead to the formation of the gender role.

  • Why society and individual needs gender roles?
  • How and why gender concept exists?
  • How an individual and society looks towards a particular gender?
  • What is the contribution of Society and Individuals in formation of gender and gender role?
  • What is the role of Nature and Nurture in Gender role development?

Psychological Perspectives of Gender

Psychology is the study of the mind and all human behaviour. An individual’s psychology is influenced by his/her biology (nature) as well as his/her environmental influences (nurture). Since biological and social influences manifest differently for men and women, one finds individual psychology strongly affected by gender.

Psychological Theories

  • The Evolutionary Theory
  • The Biosocial Theory of Gender Role Development
  • Social Learning Theory
  • Gender Schema Theory 

The Evolutionary Theory


This theory suggests that we have inherited our behaviour from our ancestors.

Around 10,000 years ago our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, they had to depend on nature for food. Since that time due to physical difference between men and women, the men used to go for hunt and find food, where as women's duty was to nurture child and do the domestic job.

As time elapsed, these gender roles were passed over from one generation to the another and in this way today man is expected to be aggressive and competitive and women is expected to be soft and more caring.

The Biosocial Theory of Gender

Role Development

The Biosocial Theory was proposed by John Money and Anke Ehrhardt in 1972.

This theory suggest that genetic factors (nature) and environmental factors (nurture) plays a very important role in gender development of an individual.

According to this theory children are considered gender neutral at birth. After the age of three, Gender identity and adherence to one's gender role starts.

This theory is based on case studies where it was seen that children born genetically as females but raised up as males thought of themselves as boys.

Social labelling and treatment given by society, interacts with biological factors to direct the child’s development. Society and its expectations influence the child’s gender identity.

Social Learning Theory


Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory explains that gender roles are learned through observations and modelling.

The child observes how others of the same sex behave and imitates their behaviour. These kind of behaviour becomes a part of the personality of the individual when it is reinforced through reward and punishment by parents, peers, etc.

For example, girls watch their mothers cooking and imitate this behaviour. A boy may be impressed by the way his father or a male relative rides a motorbike and he imitates this behaviour.

Gender Schema Theory

A Gender Schema is an organized set of gender related beliefs that influence one's behavior.

Gender Schema Theory was introduced was by Sandra Bem 1981 and further expanded by Carol Martin and Charles Haverson.

This theory suggests that children learn what it means to be a male or a female from their interaction with society.

So, according to this theory children first form a gender identity and then form gender schemas.

This theory suggests that children learn what it means to be a male or a female from their interaction with society.

These schemas organise and regulate our behaviour. They depend upon the child’s observations of what society expects from a male and a female. The child makes meaning of new social information based on the schemas formed.


For example : The child has observed how males and females dress differently.

For example: If I am a boy so I must act like a boy. If I am a girl so I must act like a girl.

Gender schemas influence our interaction in life. Self esteem is also influenced by gender schema.

Sociological Perspectives on Gender 

What is Sociological Perspective?

The sociological perspective is important because it gives a different direction of looking at familiar worlds.

It allows us to gain new vision of social life

It emphasizes that our social backgrounds influence our attitudes, behaviours and life chances.

Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber were early thinkers in the development of sociology.

Sociological Theories

  • Functionalist Theory (Emile Durkheim)
  • Conflict Theory (Karl Marx)
  • Symbolic Interaction Theory (Sociologist Max Weber and Herbert Blumer)
  • Feminist Sociological Theory 

Sociological Perspectives of Gender

Our knowledge about society and how society functions comes from various sociological theories. These theories help to understand the connection between society and class, society and caste and such other identities. Like all other social identities, gender is also socially constructed. Sociological perspective states that biology alone does not determine gender identity. Society contributes greatly to gender identity.

A brief description of four theories that impact gender roles is given below:

Functionalist Theory

(Emile Durkheim)


According to the Functionalist Perspective, gender roles maximize social efficiency and helps society to remain stable.

In order to achieve smooth functioning of society each individual or group of individual needs to perform their duties.

Conflict Theory (Karl Marx)

Karl Marx stated, Society is a stage on which the struggle for power and dominance are acted out.

The supporters of Conflict Theory asserts that exercising of power by one social class over another social class helps in maintaining social order.

Friedrich Engles, as a collaborator of Karl Marx based on these assumptions suggested that in household level the owner-worker relationship of labour force is seen because of women's dependency upon men.

Contemporary conflict theorists suggest that women gain power in the family structure when they become wage earners.

Symbolic Interaction Theory

(Max Weber and Herbert Blumer)


Sociologist Max Weber said, 'Individuals act according to their interpretation of the meaning of their world.

Symbolic Interaction theory suggests that when people interact with each other they continually modify their behavior as result of such interaction.

The term 'Social Interaction' is coined by Herbert Blumer where he stated that people respond to the world based on the interpretation they bring to it.

Feminist Sociological Theory

This theory is based on the attempt to explain the societal difference between men and women focuses on providing a voice to women in society and also emphasizing their contribution.