What does this case tell you about the power of biology?

Psychology homework help

This week, we have discussed issues related to gender and sexuality. You should have some idea of the ways that both biology and society shape our expectations and views of both males and females. Sometimes, however, the issue is not so clear-cut. If you are not familiar with the terms “hermaphrodite” or “intersex,” I suggest that you look them up before participating in this week’s discussion. Then link to and read the following account:


This is obviously a very tragic case on many levels.

1.) What does this case tell you about the power of biology?

2.) Does it support or refute Dr. Money’s (and others’) apparent view that children are a “blank slate,” and that they can successfully transition from one sex to another if it is done early enough in childhood?

3.) Given what happened to David Reimer, what would be your opinion now on whether “sex reassignment surgery” should be done on infants or young children who are born with an intersex condition? Support your argument with empirical research findings.



This lesson will cover peer interactions, friendship and gender. We will begin by exploring how peer interactions develop, and what peer acceptance means in the context of child development. We will investigate how social information-processing functions in popular and unpopular children, and the impact of this on children’s short- and long-term development. We will then move onto friendship, where we will look at what friendship means in the different stages of development. We will look at how groups function, and the importance of teenage romances. We will also look at gender, and the impact of gender stereotypes in child development. We will discuss the role of biology, cognition, family and other social influences on the genders. Lastly, we will have a brief discussion about sexual orientation and androgyny.

Development of Peer Interactions

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· Early Social Experiences

As we have discussed throughout this course, the home environment has an enormous effect of child development. However, interactions outside the home influence also child development, and the ability to socialize successfully is a cornerstone of development. As the prevalence of preschool education increases, and as more mothers are employed outside the home, children’s ability to socialize at a younger age becomes more significant because of the profound impact social interactions have on a child’s self-esteem. Children’s early social experiences set the foundation for future interactions.

Peer Acceptance


Children reinforce each other’s behaviors, by ignoring, paying attention to, sharing with, praising and criticizing each other. This ‘peer pressure’ begins from around the age of four, and becomes increasingly powerful as children develop, because being accepted, approved of or ostracized by peers has a tremendous impact on children’s self-esteem.

Social Comparison

Children measure themselves against other children through social comparison, in order to objectively rate and evaluate themselves. How a child is received by peers is highly related to the child’s self-esteem, and defines children’s self-image (Harter, 2006). Positive first experiences can lay the foundation for healthy social behaviors that continue into adulthood.

Sociometric Techniques

Researchers study peer acceptance by measuring each child’s status within peer groups, using sociometric techniques. These measures get the group members to rate each other in characteristics such as aggression, helpfulness and likability (Ladd, 2005).


Sociometric techniques have enabled researchers to categorize children’s popularity based on their characteristics and styles of interaction (Bierman, Smoot, & Aumiller, 1993; French, 1990; Ladd, 2005; Parkhurst & Asher, 1992). The nominative technique is a kind of sociometric technique that gets children to select or nominate peers they most like and dislike.

● Popular children receive the most nominations for being well liked, and are prosocial, friendly, good communicators and assertive. However, some popular children have different characteristics. These include being dominant, aggressive, cool, athletic, influential and arrogant.

● Average children do not receive nominations for being well liked or disliked.

● Controversial children receive nominations from being both well liked and disliked.

● Rejected children receive many nominations for being disliked. Aggressive rejected children have behavior problems and little self-control. Nonaggressive rejected children lack social skills, and are withdrawn and anxious.

● Neglected children receive few votes as they are normally friendless and isolated.

We will now look at what drives peers’ judgements of one another.

Social Information-Processing



Social and cognitive skills enable children to approach and initiate new social interactions. Socially skilled children want to interact with others. For this to be possible, children need to feel comfortable with others, and this is based on the confidence that they have something useful or valuable to contribute, as well as being interested in finding out about others.


Beauty Perceived as Virtue

Although social skills primarily determine children’s social status, there are lesser factors that may contribute. Children and teenagers attribute positive qualities, such as being fearless, friendly, self-sufficient, interpersonally competent and appealing, to people with attractive physical appearances, and attribute negative qualities, such as being aggressive, mean and antisocial, to people with unattractive physical appearances (Hawley, Johnson, Mize, & McNamara, 2007).

Physical Appearance and Treatment

Physically attractive people are treated better, judged more positively and are more popular than unattractive people, and were found to be better adjusted and to have greater intelligence (Langlois et al., 2000). Considering this research in the context of our discussions in previous lessons about the impact of stress, self-esteem and environment factors on cognitive performance, do you think it is possible that an individual’s cognitive performance could be impacted by the way they are treated because of their physical appearance?

Popular Names

Children’s names also have an impact on their social interactions (Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker, 2006). Children with popular names are more acceptable, while children with ‘funny’ names may be less acceptable to their peers. Furthermore, U.S. children generally do not play with children outside their age group, while children from other cultures, such as Africa and Asia, tend to play with children from a far wider range of age groups.

Being Unpopular

Children can be cruel to those they dislike. Children may exclude, ignore, verbally and physically attack, harass, bully, tease, gossip about and dominate others. Sadly, many rejected children, particularly the nonaggressive ones, are victims of these behaviors.

Unpopular children experience long- and short-term consequences. These include loneliness, social dissatisfaction, alienation and isolation. Academic performance is affected, and these children may avoid or drop out of school. They may be uncooperative and begin to engage in criminal activity. Victimized children may develop depression in early adulthood and be prone to harassment at work. Rejected children usually maintain this status over their lifetime (Coie & Dodge, 1983).

Parents, Teachers, and Peer Acceptance





Watch this video on teaching children social skills at school:

Knowledge Check


Question 1

Please select the two correct statements. The most effective ways for adults to help children gain the acceptance of their peers are:

To ensure children have positive social experiences from a young age, especially within the family.

To train and coach parents and children on social skills.

To ensure the children have the best clothes and toys, and always look great.

Peer acceptance is not that important, therefore adults should not get involved.

I don’t know

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Hartup (1996) describes friendship as a relationship between equals that includes commitment and reciprocity. Bigelow (1977) and Bigelow and LaGaipa (1975) describe how children’s expectations of friendship progress in three stages. (Please note that the italicized expectations from each stage are carried over to the next stage.)

Friendship tends to develop on the basis of communication, exchanges of information, positive exchanges, common ground, self-disclosure and effective conflict resolution (Parker & Gottman, 1989). Children display more positive affect in interactions with friends, but also disagree more with each other than with nonfriends. Conflicts between friends are usually less heated than with nonfriends, and friends generally try to resolve the conflict in a way that preserves the relationship. While a certain level of conflict in friendship is normal, certain friendships can degenerate into mutual antipathy.





Developmental Stages of Friendship

The goals and processes of friendship change with age.

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