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Social Implications Tied To Gender In The United States

1651 words - 7 pages

The term gender acts as a basic biological means of dividing and classifying men and women. Even though being biologically male or female merely means one has the corresponding reproductive parts, there is much more to gender than this. Within the United States, being male or female comes with many social implications and expectations. The issue of gender is so powerful that it has become an organizing construct for national development.
A popular, though controversial method for dealing with gender has been to compare the sexes and discern the differences between the two. In their book The Psychology of Sex Differences, Maccoby and Jacklin (1974) discovered four major differences between males and females: verbal, quantitative, spatial abilities, and aggressive tendencies. Even though they decided that the evidence was not strong enough to show definitive proof about other facets of social behavior, their findings led other psychological researchers to pursue interest in learning about gender differences. According to Alice Eagly (1995), other psychologists disagreed with Maccoby and Jacklin’s findings of gender differences. This early research was based on drawing conclusions or making generalized deductions about the data.Newer forms of research were developed that utilized metaanalytic methods to provide scientifically legitimate information, offering an advantage over older, informal methods. “Most obviously, quantitative reviewers do not rely on statistical significance to interpret findings but invoke effect size metrics that independent of studies’ sample sizes” (Eagly, 1995, p. 146). With this new form of research, psychologists set out to study how males and female performed cognitively and academically. Just as Maccoby and Jacklin had stated earlier, females were found to have “more substantial measures of verbal fluency, while males (were) more substantial on aspects of visuospatial ability” (Eagly, 1995, p. 147). Gender differences in social behavior have also been discovered, leading psychologists to develop theories to explain such variations. The social role theory states men and women behave differently in different social contexts and engage in differing roles. The communal role is typically taken on by women because it is characterized by friendliness, openness, and nurturing behavior, while the agentic role is taken on by men because it encompasses roles of dominance, assertiveness, and autonomy. These social expectations organize men and women into certain social roles that make up “typical” male or female behavior. Eagly states that we learn about gender segregation as early as childhood in what she calls the separate cultures idea, or the “idea that children learn rules for social interaction from experience in largely sex-segregated peer groups in childhood and then carry this learning into adult social interaction” (Eagly, 1995, p. 148). The idea of evolutionary psychology states that we are innately programmed to...

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