Analyzing How Sex and Gender Interact

"Sex" and "gender" are distinguished for analytical purposes (see Sex and Gender are Distinct Terms). "Sex" refers to biological qualities (see Sex; Analyzing Sex), and "gender" refers to socio-cultural processes (see Gender; Analyzing Gender). In reality, sex and gender interact (mutually shape one another) to form individual bodies, cognitive abilities, and disease patterns, for example. Sex and gender also interact to shape the ways we engineer and design objects, buildings, cities, and infrastructures. Recognizing how gender shapes sex and how sex influences culture is critical to designing quality research. Sex and gender also intersect in important ways with a variety of other social factors, including age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, geographical location, etc.

analyzing factors intersecting sex and genderAnalyzing FactorsAnalyzing SexAnalyzing Gender

Sex, Gender, and Factors Intersecting with Sex and Gender all interact to create individual behaviors, cognitive abilities, health outcomes, and attitudes, etc. across the life span.

factors influencing sex development from Regitz-Zagrosek, V. EMBOR 13 (7)

Complex interdependency of sex and gender throughout the human life cycle (Regitz-Zagrosek, 2012). If we take health status, for example, sex influences health by modifying behavior. At the same time, gender behaviors can modify biological factors. Although women and men are fundamentally alike, differences of sex and gender can interact to produce differing health outcomes (see Heart Disease in Women; Nutrigenomics; Osteoporosis Research in Men).

Example 1: How Sex and Gender interact when Exploring Markets for Assistive Technologies for the Elderly

new assistive technologies arrow

Analyzing sex (physical needs) and analyzing gender (social needs) of the elderly, and analyzing how these needs combine in individual women and men helps researchers design the most effective and marketable assistive technologies. For examples, see Exploring Markets for Assistive Technologies for the Elderly

Example 2: How Sex, Gender, and other Factors Interact in Nutrigenomics

Cumulative Life Course risk factors for Non-communicable Disease (NCD)

Both sex- and gender-related factors determine an individual's functional capacity across the the course of his or her life. Because sex and gender interact it is difficult to identify the respective influences of each factor independently. For a discussion, see Nutrigenomics.

Example 3: How Sex, Gender, and other Factors Interact in Brain Development

sex converges with gender to influence brain development

Sex (genes, chromosomes, hormones, etc.) converges with gender (parental stimuli, media, education, etc.) across an individual's life to influence brain development. Factors intersecting with sex and gender, such as socio-economic status, geographic location, the influence of language and religion, etc., further influence brain development. This image is suggestive of the many factors that converge in brain development. Our placement of factors is not specific to developmental periods; development will differ by individual, geographic location, environment, etc. We welcome comments and improvements on this image.

Related Case Studies

Brain Research
Exploring Markets for Assistive Technologies for the Elderly
Osteoporosis Research in Men

Works Cited

  • Regitz-Zagrosek, V. (2012). Sex and Gender Differences in Health. European Molecular Biology Organization Reports, 13 (7), 596-603.