The Great Debate

Topics: Nature versus nurture, Patriarchy, Gender Pages: 12 (3909 words) Published: February 20, 2013
The Great Debate

Katie Fulmer
Sociology 332
Dr. Campbell
Term Paper


I. Introduction
a. Gender and Sex
b. Nature
c. Nurture

II. History of Nature vs. Nurture

III. Today’s Cultures Around the World
a. Patriarchal/Patrilineal Societies
i. The United States
ii. Saudi Arabia
iii. Italy
iv. Uganda

b. Matriarchal/ Matrilineal Societies
i. Iriquois
ii. Minangkabau people of West Sumatra
iii. Mosou of China
iv. Asante of the Akan in Ghana

IV. The Great Debate

V. Conclusion

The Great Debate
Sex and gender, nature and nurture; these are some terms that have been the heat of debate among the Social Science field for some time. Sex and gender have been used as interchanging terms for many years. You may ask, is there a difference? Yes, there is. Sex refers to the biological differences, chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs (Nobelius, NPG). Gender refers to characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine (Nobelius, NPG). The debate over sex/gender and nature versus nurture has been intriguing to many in the Social Science realm. Social Science has long been concerned with the extent to which certain aspects of behavior are a product of inherited (nature) or learned characteristics (nurture). Nature deals with the aspects of our being that are innate, while nurture regards how environmental aspects affect us. There is little doubt that genes (nature) determine such things as eye, hair or skin color. But the nature versus nurture debate seeks to understand how a person develops factors such as personality, intelligence and behavioral traits. There are many questions that arise with this debate. We know that both nature and nurture play parts in defining us as people, but exactly how much? If everything in our personality can be changed by our environment and how we learn, then does our birth sex matter? Does being male give the right to be the “head of the house”? And does being the mother always mean you have to raise the children? In my paper, I am going to discuss the history if this great debate of nature versus nurture, patrilineal and matrilineal societies as well as other cultures and how they function, followed by a brief summary and my conclusion.

Going back into the history books, we know many people studied this topic (and similar behaviorism topics), people such as John B. Watson, Margaret Mead, Marshall Sahlins and B. F. Skinner. We can see the earliest recorded debate over this topic, using the terms “nature” and “nurture” started in France during the 13th century (, NPG) in a manuscript titled Silence. Though the exact terminology was “nature” and “noreture” (for nurture) these terms were used to discuss characteristics that worked to shape one’s personality (, NPG). 600 years later was the next instance by a man named Francis Galton in 1874 (, NPG). In Galton’s work English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture, published in 1874, Galton states: "[Nature and nurture are] a convenient jingle of words, for it separates under two distinct heads the innumerable elements of which personality is composed. Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture is every influence that affects him after his birth" (, NPG).

The meaning has stayed the same for the centuries that have passed, so let’s take a look at different types of societies, patriarchal (patrilineal) and matriarchal (matrilineal) and see if there are differences. The term patriarchal defines a social system in which the male acts as the primary authority figure, central to the social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children and property” (Wikipedia 3, NPG). Patrilineal refers to relating to, based on, or tracing ancestral descent though the paternal...

Mernissi, Fatima. “Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society.” (Revised Edition). 1987. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press
Nobelius, Ann-Maree
N.a. “Nature versus Nurture: Genetics and Environment”. 2011. Web. 26 July 2012.
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