explanations of gender (division of labour)
1 This approach explores the way behavioural traits can be passed
on through our genes. The evolutionary theory of gender roles
proposes that males and females have evolved different roles. They
behave in different ways, in order to increase their chances of their
own survival and that of their young.
2 The traditional gender roles have been male hunters
and female gatherers and homemakers. This role
division may have evolved because women would have
spent most of their adult life pregnant or producing milk
or both. If the women spent time hunting it would
reduce the group’s reproductive success. However,
women could contribute by caring for children, growing
vegetables, cooking, making clothes etc.
3 Brain development differences
would also influence the division
of labour, with males have better
visual spatial skills so being better
hunters, while women having
better language skills which are
needed to raise infants effectively
and transmit to the next
generation how to behave in
4 It has also been suggested that this gender division of labour can
explain why humans (HOMO SAPIENS) survived while Neanderthals
(HOMO NEANDERTHALENSIS) did not. The Neanderthals diet was
only animals and both men and women hunted. Neanderthals were
large and needed high calorie food; when hunting was unsuccessful
the whole group would starve. Humans however were able to farm an
eat vegetables due to their more adaptive division of labour, so they
didn’t rely on one food source.
5 This explanation is supported by cross-cultural
research into gender based division of labour.
5.1 Wood and Eagley (2002) looked at records from many cultures around the world and found division of labour
by gender everywhere. In most non-industrial cultures, men did more to provide the food than women, and
this was especially marked in cultures that hunted large animals. In all cultures, women contributed much
more to child care, especially in infancy.
5.1.1 This study supports the idea that division of labour by gender roles is determined by evolution because
women originally looked after the children (because they were smaller than men and usually pregnant) and
were gatherers. This emphasises that the women’s roles were determined by the best chance of the group
survival so they didn’t go hunting because they didn’t to produce children.
5.1.2 However… Wood and Eagley also found that there was a lot of variation between cultures in men ‘s and
women’s roles`- weaving, milking, harvesting, planting and tending crops are example of swing activities
which were predominately male in some cultures, more female in others.
220.127.116.11 • This opposes the evolutionary explanation of gender role development because it shows that men and
women can share their roles. Whereas , the evolutionary explanation states that men ‘provide’ and women are
‘homemakers’ and therefore evolution is not the only reason why men and women do different activities. It
also suggests that if there are variations in gender development across cultures that it is nurture rather than