WHAT INFLUENCE DO GENDER ROLES HAVE
ON ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT?
Scott M. Daigle
Dr. Alyssa Gonzalez DeHass
Florida Atlantic University
Gender Roles 2
Introduction to the Topic of Choice
This question is of particular interest to me due to my desire to become a high
school guidance counselor. I will have to deal with boys and girls equally, but I feel as
though I would be better qualified if I understood some of the major components of their
individual growth. A large factor in this period of change is the role that their own
gender will play upon their upbringing and the decisions that they will make. Society has
set ideals that are expected of both boys and girls and these pressures take their toll on
young and impressionable minds. By having stronger background knowledge of these
issues, I will be better prepared to fulfill the duties of my position.
The question is really asking what are the consequences of being a boy or of
being a girl? How does one deal with being one gender or the other? How is my own
development partially determined simply by the sex that I am? Am I really the way that I
am simply because I am a boy or a girl? Could I have done anything differently to be
another type of person? All of these come into play when considering the overall
purpose of this paper. Boys do behave unlike girls and there are reasons for this
happening. Educators can facilitate increased success by accommodating these issues.
During the time that I was a teacher, I was amazed at the similarities and
variances that existed between the male and female students. You will find many of both
genders who want to excel at school and work very hard to do so. At the same time,
there are many of both sexes who present themselves as “trouble” students. However, I
would have to state that I found the characteristics that were not common for both
genders to be more noticeable. Some of the reasons for this I knew already, but many of
the others I am hoping to have learned by completing this psychology-related assignment.
Gender Roles 3
Some key terms to consider while reading this paper: 1) adolescence – the
period of life between childhood and adulthood, 2) affiliation – the establishment and
maintenance of relationships with others, 3) autonomy – having a sense of control
regarding the things one does and the direction that one’s life takes, 4) flexibility – the
ability to allow one’s mind to reinterpret situations to develop a new perspective, 5)
gender role – non-physical aspects of being male or female, including cultural
expectations for femininity or masculinity [DeHass, class notes, 9/14], 6) sex – biological
maleness or femaleness [DeHass, class notes, 9/14], 7) stereotypes – rigid, simplistic,
and erroneous caricatures of a particular group of people, 8) subculture – a group that
resists the ways of the dominant culture and adopts its own norms for behavior, and 9)
vulnerability – the state of suffering from emotional or psychological insecurity.
I have chosen five articles that I believe cover a fair range of thought on the role
of gender in adolescence. The first paper deals with the way that young people view
themselves and others, in relation to society, based on their gender. This sets the
foundation for the roles that most of us naturally assume. The second article then
continues this by discussing the relationships that we develop with others. Many of our
friendships are greatly affected by the gender of the other. The third journal topic
explores the privileges and allowances that are granted to adolescents by their parents.
The fourth article analyzes the effect of conflict between parents and children and
how that negatively influences their susceptibility to maladjustment. There is mixed
research that is inconclusive as to how consistent this pattern may be. The last paper
focuses on depression and how one gender may be more vulnerable to its onset. This
study tries to narrow down the time frame when the earliest symptoms begin to appear.
Gender Roles 4
Alfieri, T., Ruble, D. & Higgins, E. (1996). Gender stereotypes during adolescence:
Developmental changes and the transition to junior high school. Developmental
Psychology, 32 (6), 1129 – 1137.
From previous research, it is believed that as adolescents get older that gender
stereotyping becomes less flexible. Alfieri, Ruble, and Higgins (1996) conducted this
study in two adjacent school districts in a suburb of New York City. Grades included
were 4-11, with over 95% of the students being White and with median family incomes
between $52 – 56,000. The purpose of this study was to determine if gender stereotyping
does become more flexible, and if it does, to discover when it occurs.
About 25% of the eligible students brought back signed consent forms. The two
school districts chosen had different transitions to junior high school, with one system
starting in 7th grade and the other beginning in 8th. They also had varying breakdown for
high school, with one being 9-12 and the other being 10-12 grades. From the first
district, there were 195 students taking part (91 girls and 104 boys). From the second
district, there were 132 students participating from grades 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9. The measure
given was a list of 12 trait-related terms, half of which were masculine and half of which
were feminine. The students were then asked to classify the terms as to whether they
pertained to a male or a female or both. For terms described as both, they were
represented and asked to choose between only male or female. The items on the measure
were shown to be highly associated with only one sex from previous research. The 4th
and 5th graders were tested individually and asked to pick a labeled card. The older
students were tested in groups and they responded in a questionnaire format.
Gender Roles 5
As predicted, the first year of junior high school was associated with an increase
in gender stereotype flexibility. This was found to be true whether the first year was in
7th or 8th grade, depending on the school district breakup. Students who were tested in
years following the change of schools were found to have decreasing flexibility in their
gender stereotyping. In the first year of the study, boys were found to have less
flexibility with the masculine stereotype than were the girls.
This study did find that gender stereotypes may become flexible for a short period
of time for new junior high school students. This flexibility is attributed to the transition
period where the adolescents go from being the oldest in the school to the youngest. To
accommodate a wider range of peers their views become temporarily unstable and they
are open to new interpretations. It is during this period of time that educators may take
advantage of opportunities to present varying views on gender roles in society. If ever
there was a chance to do this, the first year of junior high school appears to be it.
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Wong, M. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Affiliation motivation and daily experience:
Some issues on gender differences. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 60 (1), 154 – 164.
In past research, it has been shown that highly affiliative individuals have a
stronger desire to be around others and they will make efforts to put themselves into
comfortable social settings. Wong and Csikszentmihalyi (1991) conducted a week long
study where teachers from two suburban high schools in Chicago were asked to nominate
freshman and sophomore students who had particular talents in selected areas. The
purpose of the study was to clarify the relationship between affiliation motivation and
day-to-day experience and to discern if strength of the motives vary by gender difference.
This was a four-year longitudinal study. Letters were sent to parents and students
to explain the purpose. They were told the study was designed to learn about activities,
thoughts, and feelings of adolescents. There were 228 students who agreed to participate
and 170 of those were selected (68 boys and 102 girls). All of them had excellent grades
in the relevant subject areas and they were all active in extra curricular activities. The
majority were Caucasians from middle-class families. They were each asked to complete
a Personality Research Form consisting of 16 questions related to affiliation. They were
also instructed to complete an Experience Sampling Form at random times of the day
when they were signaled by pager. These consisted of open-ended questions that were
coded by three researchers with an interrater agreement of 90 – 95%. The students met
with researchers 3-4 times during the week in an office. A background questionnaire
about demographic information and family relationships was also completed.
Gender Roles 7
As far as gender was concerned, there was found to be no relationship with or
effect on the strengths of affiliation motivation. Those with a higher affiliation motive
wished to be with friends more. In regard to companions, it was found that girls spent
less time alone than did boys. As far as social activities, highly affiliative girls reported
more social interactions, but the opposite was found for boys. The less affiliative boys
had more reported social interactions making the findings somewhat puzzling. Female
subjects reported more interpersonal thoughts than did boys. When highly affiliative
boys were alone, they were found to have lower motivation than the other boys.
By educators knowing the social orientation of students, they will be better able to
construct social or group settings within the classroom that may dramatically improve
academic performance. For some students, interaction with others and teamwork will
produce more much positive results than for others. The trick is to figure out which
members of the class are in need of this type of socialization. With an understanding of
the personal motivations of students, teachers will be able to take advantage of these
needs and put them to productive use in the classroom.
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Bumpus, M., Crouter, A., & McHale, S. (2001). Parental autonomy granting during
adolescence : Exploring gender differences in context. Developmental
Psychology, 37 (2), 163 – 173.
In the past, research has been conducted on the autonomy that has been granted
adolescents as they get older. This study conducted by Bumpus, Crouter, and McHale
(2001) was an extension of this information. They compared the differences in families
who had older and younger siblings with varying genders to see if this had any effect.
This report is the result of the first phase of a three year longitudinal study.
The various participants were drawn from various eligible families located in 18
local school districts. Letters describing the study were sent out to families with a student
in the 8th, 9th, or 10th grade and a younger sibling within 1-4 years younger. The parents
had to both be biological and still married to each other and they both had to work at least
part-time. The final sample included 194 families drawn most from working and middle
class families located in small towns and rural areas. Due to financial restrictions, the
response rate for eligible families was not able to be determined.
The sample was broken down as such: 45 older sister/younger sister pairs, 45
older sister/younger brother pairs, 50 older brother/younger sister pairs, and 54 older
brother/younger brother pairs. All families were white, except for four biracial families.
Data was collected during two different types of interviews. In the first, the family
members were interviewed separately in the home about their relationships and attitudes.
In the weeks following, there were seven telephone interviews that were conducted to
record daily activities and to track parents’ knowledge of their children’s whereabouts.
Gender Roles 9
It was found that parents believed their children to have less decision making
ability than the adolescents believed themselves to have. As predicted, fathers believed
their children to have less input-providing opportunities than did the mothers. Mothers
were found to be more knowledgeable about children’s whereabouts than were the
fathers. The younger sibling was perceived to have less decision-making opportunities
and parents were also more knowledgeable about their daily activities. It was found that
the most noticeable differences were incorporated in families that had a female as the
older sibling and a boy as the younger sibling.
Parents can play a major role in the education and study patterns of their children.
If adolescents believe that they are contributing more to the decisions about their
schooling, then they are more likely to take an active and productive role. Parents can
guide this direction but allow teenagers to attempt to make judicious choices. Same can
be said in the classroom. If students perceive themselves as having more opportunities
for choice, then they are more likely to be highly involved with their own progress and
success. This all goes back to intrinsic motivation having an internal locus of control.
Fathers need to be included more in the overall appraisal of their children.
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Davies, P. & Lindsay, L. (2004). Interparental conflict and adolescent adjustment : Why
does gender moderate early adolescent vulnerability? Journal of Family
Psychology, 18 (1), 160 -170.
In previous studies, there has been inconclusive evidence of the effect of
interparental conflict on adolescent children. Davies and Lindsay (2004) conducted this
study of 6th – 8th grade students and their mothers from a public middle school near a
metropolitan area. This aim of this research was to test a model of gender and related
mechanisms as possible indicators of interparental conflict and adolescent maladjustment.
A final sample of 924 students was created after those eligible didn’t participate
either do to lack of parental consent, no student interest, or being absent the day of the
study. These subjects reported having both a mother and father figure and had completed
all the necessary data for the focal points. The sample had a median age of 12.57 years
and was divided almost evenly in regard to gender with 466 boys and 458 girls. The
ethnic composition was 82% non-Hispanic White, 9% African American, 5% Hispanic,
2% Asian-Pacific Islander, and 2% Native American.
Surveys were mailed to parents for completion and small incentives were
included in the form of coupons. 23% of the parents with middle school children
returned the surveys, consisting of 172 mothers. Median family income was around
$40,000 and parents were less ethnically diverse. The subjects were asked to complete
scales on interparental conflict and adolescent maladjustment. Children only were also
instructed to complete a 10 item measure on communion. Internal consistency
coefficients for all adjustment scales exceeded .85.