Specific behavioral patterns of great biological importance are mostly regulated by chemical substances produced by the brain. Most importantly, hormones have a role in differentiation of sexually dimorphic behavior. The term “hormone” is used to refer to a chemical substance that travels around the body influencing physiology and behavior (Bayliss & Starling, 1902). Intracranial functions could be influenced and altered by other substances found elsewhere. This paper is concerned with the neural-hormonal control of sexual behavior and the eventual determination of sexual identity.
As opposed to early studies of hormones on sexual behavior that were largely dominated by psychologists rather than ethnologists, modern studies are not largely preoccupied with the way gonadal hormones alter sexual drive. These studies have often been problematic as there have been no definite ways of measuring behavior due t lack of reliable quantitative techniques. However, both psychologists and ethnologists have over the years increased scrutiny on the methods of measurement such that the precision and interpretative power approaches neuro-endocrinological techniques (Neave, 20008). The end result has been a viable and feasible finding that has been the basis of current knowledge on the interaction between hormone and behavior and the consequential determination of gender identity.
Behavioral endocrinology, in strive to demystify the relationship between behavior and hormones and the end-result effect on gender identity, acknowledge the difference in sex and gender (Oerter & Montada, 2002). A study carried out showed that a group of children with exceptional skills in mathematics showed an developed physical attributes which were attributed to overexposure to male sex hormones which resulted in slow growth of the brains’ left hemisphere. The right hemisphere of the brain, which has theoretically been proven to specialize in mathematical and scientific orientation, becomes more strengthened than the left leading to mathematical ability in males (Kowalski & Westen, 2005). A different study shows similar findings suggesting that women are better in verbal skills and tasks that involve coordination especially during production of estrogen. Their spatial relationships were found to be better when their estrogen levels are low. As such, inasmuch as there isn’t a clear indication of the extent to which sex differences may be defined by biological causes, these case studies point undoubtedly at the fact that hormones contribute largely to the gender identity of a person.
The amygdale and hypothalamus influence the sexual behavior of an individual overly as units of the most important elements of the brain stem. They are two of the most primal parts in the control of sexual functions (Wickens, 2005). Their control and the function of male/female hormones lead to gender identity which s a personal evaluation and conception of one as male or female. Sometimes (in gender identity disorders) they may conceptualize themselves as both or neither. This could be due to instances where the personality that is outwardly manifested and observable conflicts with self-identification.
Right from the intrauterine stage of development, ones gender identity maturation commences in the fetus through hormone induced dimorphism. That’s largely the reason why male sex corresponds with the male gender just as the female sex corresponds with the female gender. Gender development is largely influenced by the gender identity at birth. Mostly, an individual’s gender development is mainly based on the initial brain dimorphism. This genetic predetermination may however fail to be basis for gender development in the instance that there are variations in exogenous and endogenous factors. With progress in gender development in children, comes the expression of the intrinsic gender identity. Based on different factors, at two years a child develops gender constancy and is able to differentiate and identify between genders. This is the foundation stage of gender identity. The gender role, mainly defined by interactions, reinforces the gender identity with progress in age.
An adolescent’s gender development is influenced by peer interaction, sexuality, traits and anxieties. The self-image of the adolescent shapes the gender identity largely as actual self-awareness and response at this stage is fully developed. During this period, there is an unquestionable gender identity in place with a well-defined accompanying gender role and a clear sexual identity.
It is noteworthy however, that environmental factors affect gender identity greatly. For instance, the school environment models society largely and children take to different gender roles in schools due to the interactions within peers. Right from birth, the environments provided for growth are different for males and females. Difference in social behavior shapes ethics and societal expectations for the growing children by far affecting their gender roles which translate to a consequent effect on their gender identity. Due to their immediate context, children pick up behavior deemed appropriate for their different gender roles in the processes of social-learning (Kowalski & Westen, 2005). Other societal influences like media also define the societal expectations and shape the gender identity of the growing children or the factors that influence it.
As largely evident from the above submissions, nature is as a result of prenatal hormones’ modifications on the peripheral tissues and the brain while nurture is largely an effect of development based on societal treatment and expectation. Critically thinking, nature holds more weight as a deciding factor of behavior, gender and identity. Human action and behavior is mainly a result of hormonal effects on the brain right from conception. Genetics therefore outweigh environment on shaping gender identity.
In conclusion, the current arguments on sexual identity are ill informed by a large margin. Those involved hardly understand what entails gender identity and the factors that contribute to it and therefore miss the point in drawing conclusions about intrinsic self-perceptions against the background of societal expectation. The notion that sexual identity is a leading factor to sexual orientation is unwarranted as the opposite is actually the case. Further to it, most people do not understand the intrigues of acquiring sexual identity. The debate of whether it is a choice or chance ranges on. Biopsychology can resolve the argument by making valid arguments based on scientific facts and research concerning the principles of nature versus nurture and the processes of acquiring sexual identity as herein discussed.
Bayliss, W, & Starling, E. H. (1902). The mechanism of pancreatic secretion. London: J.
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Kowalski R. M. & Western D. (2005). Psychology. John Wiley & Sons.
Neave Nick. Hormones and Behaviour, A Psychological Approach, Cambridge University Press, 2008
Oerter, R. & Montada, L. (2002) Developmental Psychology. Sprache: Deutsch
Wickens A. P. (2005) Foundations of Biopsychology. Pearson, Prentice Hall