Genetics versus Society

Are Gender Roles based on Biology or Environment?

Ideally, people often confuse and use the terms sex and gender interchangeably. However, according to Ardener and Shaw (2005), sex is determined by the biological differences between male and female, with female taking the XX chromosomes and the estrogen hormones and male XY chromosomes having the testosterone hormones. On the other hand, gender is defined by the cultural differences as per the expectations of the society on men and women. Importantly noted, genes play a critically significant role in determining the sex of everybody. However, while the XX and XY chromosomes determine whether an individual is a male or female, hormones play a major part in gender development, which can be interpreted thus; gender roles are based on biology and not on the environment.

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Unfortunately, in his book, Meyers tend to differ with this assertion. As he notes, genes are small segments that can be active or inactive. The genes can be triggered by environmental events to largely determine an individual gender role through cultural norms. In this case, cultural norms include rules for accepted and expected behaviors, attitudes, values, and ideas. In elaboration, for instance, cultures based on self-reliance like in the United States value personal independence and achievement. This means people who grow up in such an environment, whether male or female are more likely to be triggered by the environment to attain personal independence. Consequently, as Meyers further notes, society assigns each person a gender, which is the social category of male or female. The classification to some extents brings out the gender identity as some boys tend to exhibit traditional masculinity traits and girls become distinctly feminine as per the expectations of the society.


Ardener, S., & Shaw, A. (2005). Changing sex and bending gender. New York: Berghahn Books.

Meyers, D. G. (2010). Psychology Ninth Edition. New York: Worth Pub.

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