Is Gender About What Children ‘Are’ or About What They ‘Do’?

Is gender about what children ‘are’ or about what they ‘do’?

To begin to answer this question, it is important to define “gender”, which involves describing the difference between the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’:   Sex, relates to a person’s anatomy and focuses on reproductive difference.   That is, being male, female or intersex (a person who has both male and female reproductive organs).   Whereas, gender relates more to what it means to society and the individual to be a woman/girl or man/boy.   It adds to a person’s sense of identity and may be altered by society, time, place or culture.

To further develop the answer, it is necessary to outline some of the conflicting theories and debates regarding childhood and gender and then discuss in greater detail the beliefs of a Scientific and Social Constructionist approach in relation to this question.   Then it will be possible to summarise the main points and draw a conclusion.

There are vast theories and debates about gender and childhood, with some people believing gender is wholly socially constructed - sometimes going one step further to suggest both sex and gender are socially constructed.   Others argue it is a simple matter of nature and nurture – whereby sex is produced by natural biological occurrence and gender is produced by ones nurturing.   Few argue the differences between female and male is almost solely biological.

A scientific approach to childhood and gender relies strongly on medical evidence and
observing the way nature and nurture affects our gender.   The basis of which is established by the fact that our sex is determined whilst in the womb.

Biology informs us that when a child is conceived, a sperm cell from a man is fused together with an ovum cell from a woman to create one unique cell.   Inside this cell is a nucleus which usually contains 46 chromosomes: 23 from the man’s sperm cell which join up with 23 from the woman’s ovum cell, making 23 pairs of chromosomes.   Most of these paired...