The Psychology of Sex and Gender - Jennifer Katherine Bosson, Joseph Alan Vandello, Camille E. Buckner 2022


This book reflects a new approach to the psychology of sex and gender. As instructors of undergraduate psychology of gender courses, we regularly face three challenges when selecting a textbook. First, some textbooks lack broad coverage of the latest sex and gender science. Second, existing gender textbooks often emphasize the psychology of women rather than giving equal weight to the experiences of people of all sexes and gender identities. Third, the field of gender research changes at a remarkable pace, making textbooks feel dated quickly. In this book, we specifically tackle each of these challenges to yield an updated and engaging addition to the field.

To tackle the first challenge—that gender textbooks lack coverage of the latest sex and gender science—our book puts contemporary empirical scholarship at the center. This approach reflects our belief that students must critically evaluate the empirical evidence and draw their own conclusions about controversial issues and findings. Given the centrality of sex and gender to most of our lives, people tend to approach these topics with preconceived views, but such views can stem from stereotypes, folk beliefs, and outdated assumptions that are inconsistent with systematic, empirical observations. Our book emphasizes science as a useful, albeit imperfect, method for reducing biases. At the same time, we cover politically charged topics and tackle challenging discussions when relevant. Research on sex and gender has inevitable social and political implications, and when such implications arise, we invite students to consider multiple perspectives and question their assumptions.

To tackle the second challenge—that existing textbooks often prioritize the psychology of women—our book takes a broad approach to the psychology of sex and gender. Many of the top-selling psychology of gender textbooks are primarily about women, and for good reason: These books fill an important social and historical need, as women and women’s experiences were largely neglected by mainstream psychology for many decades. That said, ours is a different kind of textbook, one that closely reflects current sociocultural contexts and understandings of sex and gender. Our book includes not only the rich literature on men and masculinity but also the expanding literatures on transgender, nonbinary, agender, and gender-nonconforming identities and experiences. It also highlights sexual orientation diversity and intersectionality and pushes students to think about ever more inclusive ways of conceptualizing sex and gender.

To tackle the third challenge—that the field of gender research proceeds at a breakneck pace—we cover the most up-to-date findings and interweave these with classic, time-honored theories, approaches, and studies. In the past decade, scientific understandings of sex and gender saw rapid transitions. We now know more than ever before about topics like gender identity and sexual orientation, genes and hormones, the effects of gender biases, and the nature of sexism. Old theories and assumptions that long held sway are regularly upended by new findings. At the same time, underlying these rapid changes are some enduring psychological principles and truths. Psychology of gender instructors need a book such as this one that both keeps up with the forefront of the field and situates it within the fundamentals of psychology.

Not only does this book fill needs specific to the psychology of sex and gender, it also fills a more general need shared by all instructors: to enhance students’ learning by promoting deep processing of information. Specifically, this text uses current best practices from the scholarship of teaching and learning to facilitate students’ understanding of material by prompting them to develop habits of critical and integrative thinking.

Finally, a word about our title. We realize that many books on the same topic will opt for the simpler Psychology of Gender. Many gender researchers avoid the term sex because of the convention in the field that sex refers to biological and anatomical differences among people, while gender refers to the sociocultural assumptions and roles that accompany sex differences. Breaking from this convention, we embrace the term sex and use it simply to refer to categories of difference, such as “male,” “female,” “intersex,” and “nonbinary.” We therefore include sex in our title to illustrate that categories of sex are conceptually distinct from gender, rather than to imply any distinction between biological and social causes. In fact, throughout the book, we regularly insist that nature and nurture are intertwined in ways that make them impossible to separate. This reflects a growing awareness within psychology of the inseparability of nature and nurture: Biological factors shape how people and cultures conceptualize gender, and social factors shape our interpretations of the anatomy and physiology of sex. We highlight this theme explicitly in Chapter 3 (“The Nature and Nurture of Sex and Gender”) but return to it repeatedly throughout the book.


We intend this book to be used as a core text for undergraduate courses in the psychology of gender, the psychology of women, and the psychology of men. As such, it covers requisite content including sex versus gender, the sex and gender binaries, gender stereotypes, gender role socialization, sexism, and sex similarities and differences in cognitive, emotional, relational, workplace, and health outcomes. Many universities—both public and private, research oriented and teaching focused—offer these or similar courses as part of the regular curriculum in the Psychology Department, but these courses also appear in Departments of Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Men’s Studies. A course in the psychology of gender has wide appeal for students, regardless of academic major. While many are majors in psychology, sociology, or women’s and gender studies, with some planning to pursue graduate study in these disciplines, others take the course out of interest in the topic or because understanding sex and gender will prepare them for a career in an applied area. This textbook should appeal to a broad range of students, and our writing reflects this by incorporating cross-disciplinary material regularly.


This book is organized into seven units, although instructors can easily shift the order of chapters without disrupting the flow. Unit I lays the foundation for the rest of the book by introducing the concepts of sex and gender, defining essential terminology, and placing the study of sex and gender within sociohistorical contexts in Chapter 1. This unit also discusses some of the unique methodological approaches and challenges in the study of sex and gender and prepares students to evaluate the validity of research designs and researchers’ conclusions critically (Chapter 2). Unit II covers material on how people become gendered beings, from their prenatal origins and sex assignment at birth (Chapter 3) to childhood gender role socialization and adult development (Chapter 4). In Unit III, we focus on gendered social perception and systems of sex- and gender-based status and power by examining gender stereotypes (Chapter 5) and sex-related differences in structural power and discrimination (Chapter 6).

In Unit IV, we examine cognitive and emotional aspects of sex and gender, including similarities and differences in cognitive ability (Chapter 7) and gendered aspects of communication and emotion (Chapter 8). Unit V focuses on domains of personal and social life, including sexuality, relationships, and the work—home interface. While Chapter 9 offers in-depth analyses of sexual orientation and sexuality, Chapter 10 covers friendships, romantic relationships, and parenting. Chapter 11 then examines the interconnection between work and home life in the context of changing family arrangements and societal norms. Unit VI, which covers health and well-being, considers the roles of sex and gender in both physical health (Chapter 12) and psychological health (Chapter 13). This unit also considers the gendered aspects of aggression and violence that impact health (Chapter 14). Finally, Unit VII, which is new to the second edition, stimulates reflection on the main themes presented throughout the textbook. It prompts students to consider past and present understandings of gender psychology and use these to identify unanswered questions that will likely shape the field in the future (Chapter 15). We encourage instructors to use Chapter 15 to generate end-of-the-term critical thinking exercises and assignments that allow students to reflect on what they have learned by reading this book.

The themes that guided our writing, which are evident throughout each chapter, include the following:

Updated Science. We cover up-to-date findings in the psychology of sex and gender. This keeps students abreast of the latest scholarship in the field, prepares them to evaluate unfounded assumptions about sex and gender critically, and offers them a solid foundation of knowledge upon which to build.

Diversity Emphasis. We wrote this book to meet the needs of an increasingly globally aware and sophisticated student population. To this end, we focus on a diversity of gender identities, sexual orientations, races and ethnicities, cultural and subcultural backgrounds, and intersections among these dimensions. Moreover, we routinely integrate diversity and intersectionality into the chapter text rather than boxing them separately or treating them as afterthoughts. This emphasis on diverse perspectives and contents benefits students in several ways. First, exposure to inclusive content increases feelings of belonging among underrepresented students, who see their own experiences reflected in the text. This can foster interest in and engagement with the material, as students see that the psychology of sex and gender is about everyone, not just those who occupy dominant or privileged social groups. Second, exposure to diverse content can increase students’ awareness of the unique backgrounds of others who differ from them, foster an appreciation for issues of social justice, and help students build interpersonal skills that will assist them in their chosen careers and life paths. Finally, exposure to diverse perspectives and experiences can increase students’ creativity, cognitive flexibility, and problem-solving abilities, and these skills can generalize beyond the learning environment into other aspects of life.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. This book uses best practices in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) field to enhance student learning. Throughout the book, we present information in a manner that increases the likelihood of attaining the gold standard in any educational setting: the transfer of new student knowledge beyond the context in which it occurs. For example, we:

· Illustrate text concepts with current popular culture and relevant real-world examples to capture and hold student interest and prompt students to connect new material to what they already know.

· Prompt students to think (metacognitively) about their knowledge, perspectives, and assumptions. This increases the likelihood that they will use information and evidence to calibrate their understandings and that they will gain insight into what they do and do not fully understand, allowing them to ask more targeted questions.

· Weave themes (e.g., power, critical thinking, and nature—nurture) throughout the text and revisit them regularly to reinforce student learning and help students organize the new material in deeper and more meaningful ways that span different chapters. We take a similar approach with our coverage of gender-related theories. Rather than including a stand-alone theory chapter, we integrate theories directly in the text where relevant. This encourages students to use and apply theories as organizing frameworks and not simply consider theories in isolation from the phenomena they explain.

· Encourage students to apply the knowledge that they acquire from reading this book to other course material, current events, and their own personal experiences. This allows them to evaluate how their new understandings fit or clash with material they already know, thus deepening processing and increasing the likelihood of retention.

We also incorporate several specific pedagogical tools in each chapter to ensure that readers get the most out of this book. These include the following:

Learning Objectives. We begin each chapter with learning objectives, which contain the main takeaway ideas and cognitive skills that students should learn through a careful reading of the chapter. Per SOTL best practices, we state these as concrete actions (e.g., describe, analyze, and apply) that demonstrate mastery of the material.

Knowledge Pre- and Post-Tests. Each chapter (except the final summary chapter) begins with a short “Test Your Knowledge” quiz that gives the reader a sense of the coverage to come and challenges intuitions about sex and gender. These quizzes prompt metacognition. They allow readers to track changes in their understanding of the material by comparing their pretest answers with the correct answers, which appear at the chapter’s end.

Journey of Research. Many topics in the study of gender have long and sometimes controversial histories. The “Journey of Research” feature traces these histories by examining changes in scholars’ thinking about specific questions over time. This situates students’ understandings of topics within context and illustrates concretely how science continually evolves.

Stop-and-Think Questions. Each chapter contains several “Stop and Think” questions that activate and fine-tune students’ critical thinking skills. These questions engage all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy—from the lowest-level domain (remembering) to the highest-level domain (creating)—and many of them engage multiple domains (e.g., both applying and evaluating). For instance, stop-and-think questions may ask readers to consider a topic more deeply, draw connections between different topics, interpret a finding from multiple theoretical perspectives, or evaluate the pros and cons of a given outcome.

Debates. The study of gender is punctuated by many lively intellectual disagreements, and we detail many of these within the chapter “Debate” feature. While some debates are theoretical, others pertain to the validity, interpretation, or implications of empirical evidence. Debate features present both sides of an issue in an unbiased way and invite readers to weigh the evidence and draw their own informed conclusions. These debates activate readers’ critical thinking skills while offering a sense of the reflexive and iterative nature of science.

Sidebars. To capture attention and offer additional detail about topics of interest or new and exciting findings, each chapter includes several short (one- or two-paragraph) sidebars, such as “A Day of Equal Pay?” “Boys and Body Image,” and “Transgender Political History.”

Chapter Summaries. Each chapter ends with a summary that reiterates the learning objectives from the beginning of the chapter and then briefly recaps the chapter material that is central to student reflection in the process of meeting these objectives.


This text includes an array of instructor teaching materials designed to save you time and to help you keep students engaged. To learn more, visit or contact your SAGE representative at


We are excited to present the second edition of The Psychology of Sex and Gender, which reflects a great deal of research, reflection, and decision-making. We had three primary goals in mind when writing the second edition: (1) updating scientific findings, (2) expanding the diversity and inclusion focus, and (3) enhancing the SOTL focus to improve student learning. We implemented these changes broadly across the textbook so that they appear in every chapter. In what follows, we summarize our three goals and then offer a chapter-by-chapter summary of detailed changes.

Updated Science. First, we provided the most up-to-date scientific findings from gender psychology and related fields that study sex and gender. More specifically, we updated our content to include approximately 550 new references in total and 240 from 2018 or later.

Greater Diversity and Inclusion Focus. Second, we expanded our diversity and inclusion focus. For instance, we adopted more gender-inclusive pronouns (“they/them”) and terms (“Latinx”) throughout, and we covered a wider and more diverse range of cultures, experiences, and perspectives. We also added more empirical research examining gender-related outcomes at the intersections of different social identities (e.g., sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, social class), and we explicitly encourage students to consider how access to power and resources differs at these various intersections of identity.

Enhanced Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) Focus. Third, we made structural and pedagogical changes to the textbook to facilitate student comprehension and learning. For example, we added an updated summary and reflection chapter (Chapter 15, “Gender Past, Present, and Future”), and we reorganized the content in most chapters to enhance clarity and flow. Finally, we bolstered our pedagogical features to capture attention, prompt critical reflection, and encourage connections. As noted, we made these pedagogical changes to increase the transfer of new student knowledge beyond the end of the immediate learning experience.