Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

CONCEPTS OF SEX AND GENDER

CONCEPTS OF SEX AND GENDER Infant mental health has had surprisingly little to say about gender. While infant researchers may observe and comment on ‘sex differences’ there has been little analysis of this, and even less analysis of underlying assumptions of models of gender development. The retrospective psychoanalytic accounts by Freud, while they may be criticised on other grounds, have at least taken gender as a fundamental category of analysis. In some ways, infant mental health shows remnants of Freud’s early one-sex model—a model of male development with the female defined only in relation to this. More recently, interests have turned to understanding the complex interactions of biology and social experiences or culture that are involved in creating gender. Concepts of sex and gender exemplify the tensions between biology and culture, and old and newer models of development. In older models, sex is usually seen as genetically influenced and innate, and results in psychological or social differences in males and females or gender roles. Contemporary theories point out that biology always interacts with environment. Biological sex differences are influenced by culture and language and differing social expectations of males and females. Cultural expectations also influence parenting and the earliest interactions with male and female infants.

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