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What Factors Affect Gender Identity?

By November 16, 2022May 13th, 2023Uncategorized

From birth, children are assigned a gender and are socialized to conform to certain gender roles based on their biological sex, but gender is separate from sex. The World Health Organization (WHO) perceives gender as a social construct that is viewed as a spectrum with people identifying and expressing varying degrees of both femininity and masculinity. The gender norms in America have evolved, as gender is no longer considered a simple binary term. Sex, or gender assignment, refers to “physical or physiological differences between males, females, and intersex persons, including both their primary and secondary sex characteristics.” While gender refers to social or cultural distinctions based on and associated with those characteristics.

Contributing Factors

Although the formation of gender identity is not completely understood, many factors have been suggested as influencing its development. Biological factors, such as one’s pre- and post-natal hormone levels and genetic makeup, can affect one’s chemical production and subsequently cause differences in how one identifies in terms of gender. Cultural factors including ideas regarding gender roles conveyed by family, authority figures, mass media, and other influential people in a child’s life can inform one’s gender identity. According to Social Learning Theory, children develop their gender identity through observing and imitating the gender-linked behaviors of others. The attitudes of those closest to a child play a huge role in the development of gender identity, as children are shaped and molded by their surroundings, and people they wish to please, emulate, and/ or follow. Social norms are influential in the development of gender identity as they “determine the extent to which a person has the right to independently determine his or her gender identity, and even more so, to change his or her body according to such gender concepts.” The assumption that the physical anatomy of a person unequivocally matches the person’s gender identity is no longer scientifically propagated, as a wide breadth of empirical evidence underscores the distinction between one’s gender identity and one’s gender assignment. One’s gender identity is directly informed by an interaction of biological traits, developmental influences, and environmental conditions.

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