Discuss the Role of Hormones and/or Genes in Gender Development

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Discuss the role of hormones and/or genes in gender development. (8 + 16 marks)

Biological sex is determined by genes, which are on chromosomes. Humans generally have 23 pairs of chromosomes, one pair of which determines sex. Females have an XX pair while males have an XY pair. Chromosomal sex largely controls how masculine or feminine the egg's development will be.

Chromosomal sex controls whether an embryo will develop ovaries or testes. The SRY gene on the Y chromosome which only males possess will cause the gonad (the organ which produces sex cells) to develop into testes; a female's gonad will develop into ovaries due to the absence of the SRY gene. External genitalia strongly influences gender development, through the effects of the hormones which they produce and due to psychological and social factors.

Hormones also affect the development of the genitalia. Androgens (male hormones) such as testosterone stimulate the development of male sex organs. Genetic females who are exposed prenatally to high levels of androgens may therefore develop ambiguous genitalia and the baby may appear externally to be male. Similarly, genetic males with too little androgens may appear externally to be female - this condition is known as androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS).

Hormones also have a powerful affect on the development of the brain. Females and males have different brains, with females generally being better at social skills such as empathising & males generally excelling at spatial skills. Testosterone is thought to make the brain more masculine, for example by stimulating development of the areas of the brain linked to spatial skills.

Research has demonstrated the effect of hormones on gender development. Deady et al. found that in biological females, high levels of salivary testosterone were linked with low scores on measures of maternal…...

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