Cross Cultural Gender

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Cross Cultural Studies of Gender Roles Cross cultural studies are important as they help us to explain the nature / nurture debate. The nature side of the gender argument focuses on the biological explanations of gender roles stating that gender differences result from innate differences between males and females. The nurture side of the argument, on the other hand, focuses on social explanations stating gender differences result from our life experiences as we grow up. There is also an interactionist approach which is often more realistic as it takes both of these factors into account stating that gender differences are caused by innate tendencies which are modified by environmental factors, e.g. The biosocial theory. The term ‘culture’ encompasses the knowledge, beliefs and values shared by a society that are passed down the generations through imitation and communication. By looking at research through a variation of different cultures we can distinguish between universal features, which suggest an innate basis for gender therefore supporting the nurture side of the argument, and culturally specific features, which suggest gender is learned and so support the nurture side of the argument. A famous piece of cross cultural research on gender was the Six Cultures Study by Whiting and Whiting (1975) studied child rearing processes in North America, the Philippines, India, Mexico, Kenya and Japan. Researchers integrated themselves into the societies and conducted systematic 5 minute observations of the children’s daily lives. It was carried out on 500 similar families, in terms of their desires for their children, by 17 researchers. Parents provided gender roles for their offspring through a combination of nurturing and supporting, direct tuition and training, and control and praise. In Kenya, children spent 41% of their time working, compared to a mere 2% in
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