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This report is associated with understanding how gender identity growth among youths is critical in addressing the complicated nature of human beings in this context. The disparity between psychoanalysis and sociocultural theories necessitates a thorough investigation to reconcile as well as integrate these viewpoints. Individual psychology-based psychoanalytic theories provide explanations for internal processes, whereas sociocultural frameworks highlight the external impacts that shape identity (LIU, YANG & SHU, 2023). This study seeks to uncover cooperation and tensions among these frameworks through meticulous critical analysis while recognizing their respective advantages and drawbacks. The research seeks to provide a nuanced understanding of the many facets of sexual orientation formation in young people by synthesizing all of these viewpoints. In addition to theoretical input, the study seeks to inform academic discourse by providing concrete suggestions for interventions that promote positive growth-oriented encounters (Lou & Noels, 2019). Its overarching goal is to promote inclusion and responsiveness in addressing issues associated with gender, thereby adding to a more informed and supportive social approach to the power source diverse journeys that young people take in shaping their identities according to gender.

Gender identity development in youths unfolds as an intricate interplay of biological and socio-cultural factors. This essay critically examines how psychoanalytic and sociocultural theories contribute to our understanding of this phenomenon. The psychoanalytic perspective, encompassing attachment theory, delves into the internal processes shaping individual identity, while sociocultural theory explores the external influences and cultural contexts that mould gender identity. By synthesizing these theories, we aim to gain a comprehensive understanding of the intricate interplay between biology and socio-cultural dynamics in the development of gender identity in youths.

Main Body

Psychoanalytic theory

Psychoanalytic theory, originating from Sigmund Freud and extended by attachment theorists such as John Bowlby, underlines the role of early childhood experiences and relationships in shaping one's sense of self, including gender identity. Freund suggested that individuals are influenced by motives and emotional conflicts that often escape their awareness, and their development is moulded by early family experiences (Prato-Previde, Basso Ricci & Colombo, 2022). Freud's psychosexual stages proposed that children pass through various phases, such as the phallic stage, where the Oedipus and Electra complexes play a crucial role in gender identity formation. Attachment theory, an extension of psychoanalytic thought, highlights the significance of secure emotional bonds with caregivers for healthy identity development. However, the psychoanalytic approach has limitations. It is criticised for being overly deterministic and focusing predominantly on early childhood experiences, neglecting the ongoing impact of sociocultural factors. Moreover, the heteronormative assumptions embedded in Freud's theories limit their applicability to diverse gender identities. To delve further into psychoanalytic theory's applicability, we can explore the enduring influence of attachment experiences on gender identity. Bowlby's attachment theory posits that the quality of early emotional bonds with caregivers shapes an individual's internal working models, influencing relationships and self-perception throughout life (Varley et al. 2024). When considering gender identity development, a securely attached child might form a more stable and adaptable sense of self, while insecure attachments could contribute to identity challenges. This underscores the importance of early emotional experiences in the intricate tapestry of gender identity development.

Sociocultural theory

Sociocultural theory, rooted in the work of Lev Vygotsky, emphasizes the impact of cultural and societal contexts on cognitive development (Ameri, 2020). In the realm of gender identity, this perspective posits that individuals acquire gender roles and identities through socialization processes, including language, cultural norms, and role models. Gender schema theory, an extension of cognitive developmental theory, suggests that children actively construct their understanding of gender-based on societal cues. While sociocultural theory provides a nuanced understanding of how external factors contribute to gender identity, it may oversimplify the role of biology (Hales, 2020). It tends to underemphasize inherent individual differences and biological predispositions that may shape gender identity independently of societal influences. To critically evaluate the sociocultural perspective's application to gender identity development, we can explore how cultural norms and societal expectations influence the construction of gender roles. Vygotsky's emphasis on the role of social interaction and cultural tools in cognitive development aligns with the sociocultural perspective's focus on external influences (Delfin & Wang, 2022). For instance, the concept of "gender scripts" - socially learned expectations for behaviour based on one's perceived gender - illustrates how societal norms guide the development of gender identity. However, a comprehensive understanding of gender identity development requires an acknowledgment of the dynamic interplay between societal influences and an individual's inherent characteristics.

Comparison and Integration of Theories:

The strengths of psychoanalytic theory lie in its recognition of the early foundations of identity development, while sociocultural theory excels in elucidating the ongoing impact of cultural norms (Guselnikova, 2023). However, both theories have limitations, such as the psychoanalytic approach's determinism and the sociocultural perspective's potential to overlook biological factors. To forge a synthesis between these theories, we can explore how early psychoanalytic experiences interact with socio-cultural contexts to shape gender identity. For instance, a securely attached child may be more resilient in the face of societal expectations and gender norms, fostering a more authentic expression of their gender identity (Levenson, Craig & Austin, 2023). Integrating these theories allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the complexities involved in gender identity development.

The drawback of psychoanalytic theory is its deterministic character and exclusive emphasis on early childhood events (Polat, 2021). Some critics contend that this method ignores the continuous effect of socio-cultural elements on "gender identity development". Furthermore, the heteronormative assumptions underlying Freud's ideas restrict their application to varied gender identities. When the focus on Oedipus, as well as Electra complexes throughout the phallic stage, is insightful, it might not completely represent the complexities of gender identity creation in all people. Additionally, the theory's substantial dependence on unconscious impulses along with emotional conflicts raises worries regarding its empirical verifiability. In contrast, sociocultural theory, although it gives a comprehensive explanation of external variables impacting sex identity, frequently simplifies the role of biology (Eccles & Wigfield, 2020). It may undervalue intrinsic individual variations and biological predispositions which may create gender identity independently of cultural factors. This restriction emphasises the requirement for a more balanced strategy that recognises the dynamic interaction of biological as well as social elements in the formation of gender identity.

Gender identity growth in adolescents is a multifaceted endeavour that involves a complex interaction of biological as well as sociocultural factors. The theory of psychoanalytic psychology delves into the psychological mechanisms and early childhood encounters that determine individual identity, which includes gender identity, as exemplified by Sigmund Freud and adherence theorists like John Bowlby (Cadogan, 2021). It has been criticized for its destiny and unconventional presumption. The importance of secure emotional bonds in promoting an unchanging sense of self is highlighted by attachment theories' lasting contribution to gender identity. Sociocultural theory, on the other hand, is based on the work of Lev Vygotsky and points out the effect of social and social settings on cognitive development, recommending that people gain sex roles and identities through socialization processes (Khan & Meraj, 2022). It can nevertheless simplify the role of biology by ignoring built-in variations among people. Perspectives from society can be condemned by examining why social and cultural standards contribute toward the building of gender roles, with the idea of "gender scripts" showing societal guidance. When these theories are compared, both their advantages and disadvantages become clear. The psychological approach excels at identifying the earliest stages of developing an identity, whereas sociocultural theory explains how cultural norms continue to influence people (Levitt et al. 2021). Both, however, possess limitations. By investigating how early psychoanalytic endures interact with social and cultural factors contexts, this synthesis offers an expanded view of gender identity development. A tightly bound child, for example, may navigate social norms more authentically.


In conclusion, a critical analysis of psychoanalytic and sociocultural theories provides valuable insights into the development of gender identity in youths. The psychoanalytic perspective highlights the importance of early experiences and attachments, acknowledging the internal processes that contribute to identity formation. Meanwhile, the sociocultural lens underscores the external influences and cultural contexts that shape gender identity. Future considerations should involve a more integrative approach that synthesizes the strengths of multiple theories, acknowledging both the internal and external factors at play in gender identity development. Additionally, research should strive for inclusivity, recognizing diverse gender identities beyond the binary framework. By refining and expanding upon these theories, developmental psychology can continue to contribute meaningfully to our understanding of gender identity in youths. Developmental psychology may continue to improve and contribute substantially to our knowledge of gender identity in adolescents by refining as well as expanding on such concepts and taking an integrated, inclusive perspective. This continuing refining is critical for building an increasingly comprehensive, compassionate, and successful approach to assisting young people in forming their views on gender.

Reference List

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Cadogan, N. (2021). Exploring Hidden Assumptions of Culture in Child Psychotherapy in Aotearoa New Zealand–A Hermeneutic Literature Review (Doctoral dissertation, Auckland University of Technology). Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Delfin, A. B., & Wang, W. (2022). The Elkonin-Davydov Curricular Approach: How Cognitive Development can be Driven by Cultural Tools. Social Education Research , 354-370. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2020). From expectancy-value theory to situated expectancy-value theory: A developmental, social cognitive, and sociocultural perspective on motivation. Contemporary educational psychology 61 , 101859. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Guselnikova, I. (2023). Archetypes Revisited: Investigating the Power of Universals in Soviet and Hollywood Cinema (Doctoral dissertation, University of South Carolina). Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Hales, K. G. (2020). Signaling inclusivity in undergraduate biology courses through deliberate framing of genetics topics relevant to gender identity, disability, and race. CBE—Life Sciences Education 19 (2), es2. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Khan, A. H., & Meraj, B. (2022). Study of Socio-Cultural Transition in Twilight in Delhi with reference to Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory. Pakistan Languages and Humanities Review (2), 922-934. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Levenson, J. S., Craig, S. L., & Austin, A. (2023). Trauma-informed and affirmative mental health practices with LGBTQ+ clients. Psychological Services 20 (S1), 134. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Levitt, H. M., Morrill, Z., Collins, K. M., & Rizo, J. L. (2021). The methodological integrity of critical qualitative research: Principles to support design and research review. Journal of Counseling Psychology 68 (3), 357. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

LIU, W., YANG, L., & SHU, Y. (2023). The formation and consolidation of scientific paradigm in American psychology after World War Ⅱ: Analysis based on social character. Acta Psychologica Sinica 55 (10), 1729. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. A. (2019). Promoting growth in foreign and second language education: A research agenda for mindsets in language learning and teaching. System 86 , 102126. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Polat, B. (2021). Mental Hygiene, Psychoanalysis, and Interwar Psychology: The Making of the Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis. Isis 112 (2), 266-290. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

Prato-Previde, E., Basso Ricci, E., & Colombo, E. S. (2022). The Complexity of the Human–Animal Bond: Empathy, Attachment and Anthropomorphism in Human–Animal Relationships and Animal Hoarding. Animals 12 (20), 2835. Retrieve from: Retrieve on [06/11/2023]

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For more information read our blog on Maslow's Hierarchy Of Human Needs

See our related work: What Is Developmental Psychology?

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