Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Psychology, Christianity, and Gender

Megan Regalado currently works in a residential program as an Eating Disorder Counselor in Southern California. She graduated from Trinity Christian College in December ’12 with a Bachelor of Arts, in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. She hopes to attend graduate school in the Fall in order to obtain her Masters of Science in Counseling, and become a Marriage and Family Therapist. She plans on spending her career focusing on working with teens struggling with addictions.

Psychology, Christianity, and Gender

Differences in gender can be seen through social dominance, aggression, and sexuality, but as Christians we should understand the topic of gender differences as differences that are created in order to demonstrate the need for one another in a fallen world.

Social dominance can affect an individual’s view of a person’s social rank, and can overall affect the hierarchy pattern in which males are most often viewed as possessing more social dominance. Psychology examines reasons that the need for dominance is apparent in society.  Ainsworth and Maner (2012) suggest that males have an underlying need for dominance among one another as well as among females. Some psychologists suggest the role of men has been to be more socially dominant than women and to express this dominance through positions of authority.

Men and women differ in their styles of aggression, where men are viewed by psychologists as being more aggressive. Aggression then spills over into relationships among men and women. Ross’s (2012) findings suggested that physical, sexual, and psychological abuse tended to co-occur in the relationships of women with highly violent or controlling partners. Aggression and social dominance are often spoken of in the same breath when psychologists discuss the need for a male to obtain a mate for reproduction. This negative view of the aggression of men is discussed in terms of a man’s sexuality.

Sexuality is another area where men and women differ in terms of emotional involvement and arousal. “Men’s sexuality revolves around physical factors, in which nature is predominant and the social and cultural dimension is secondary. For women, social and cultural factors play a much greater role, and the role of physical processes and biological nature is relatively smaller” (Baumeister, 2000, p. 368). Baumeister (2000) also suggests that women are more creatures of meaning while men are relatively creatures of nature. The evolutionary psychology view about the sexuality of men describes their motivation for sex as being driven by their need to pass on their genes.

From a Christian standpoint, God is the creator of man and woman. Differences in social dominance and sexuality can be seen through the initial creation of man and woman, but is affected by the sin that they fell into while in the garden. “Eve was in no way inferior to her husband, but she was nonetheless given a role that was subordinate to his leadership…The relationships within the Trinity illustrate perfectly how headship and submission can function within a relationship of absolute equals” (Macarthur, 2005, p. 7). Adam and Eve were created to produce offspring and those offspring were to fill the earth. They were naked in the garden together as man and wife, and were not ashamed. Upon sin entering creation through Adam and Eve, they saw themselves merely as individuals who were naked and ashamed, emphasizing their own knowledge of their bodies and how different they were from one another by attempting to cover themselves. The relationship between man and woman is affected by sin, but that also allows us to see how man and woman complement each other with their different qualities. Man and woman are created in order to demonstrate the need for one another in a fallen world and to glorify God through their interactions and relations with one another.


Ainsworth, S.E., & Maner, J.K. (2012). Sex begets violence: Mating motives, social dominance, and physical aggression in men. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103, 819-829. 
Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347-374.
Macaruther, J. (2005). Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible and What he Wants to do With You.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Ross, J. M. (2012).  Self-reported fear in partner violent relationships: Findings on gender differences from two samples. Psychology of Violence, 2, 58-74.