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Gender and Adolescent Development

David G. Perry and Rachel E. Pauletti
Florida Atlantic University

This article summarizes and critiques recent trends in research and theory on the role of gender in adolescent develop-
ment. First, gender differences in key areas of adolescent functioning are reviewed. Second, research on 3 constructs that
are especially relevant to the investigation of within-gender individual differences in gender phenomenaFgender typing,
gender stereotypes, and gender identityFis discussed. Third, trends in theories of gender differentiation are identified.
Throughout, issues of conceptualization and of methodology are discussed, and directions for future research are offered.

Adolescents face a number of unique developmental verbal tasks, and boys are better at spatial tasks and
challenges, including coping with abrupt changes in math word problems. In achievement contexts, girls
their bodies, managing their sexual interests, form- choose easier tasks, avoid competition, and have
ing new kinds of relationships, and planning their lower expectations than boys, and, if cognizant of
academic and occupational futures. Gender affects the stereotype that girls are inferior at math, are
how youths manage all of these challenges. apt to experience performance-debilitating anxiety.
This article summarizes and critiques recent re- Nonetheless, females are surpassing boys in college
search on the role of gender in adolescent develop- enrollment and are taking calculus courses at rates
ment. We start with an overview of sex differences in similar to males (National Science Foundation,
adolescence. We then discuss the status of three Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2008).
constructs that figure prominently in theory and re- Girls are more ‘‘people oriented’’ and boys more
search on gender differentiationFgender typing, ‘‘things oriented’’ (Galambos et al., 2009; Su, Rounds,
gender stereotypes, and gender identity. Finally, we & Armstrong, 2009). This is seen in the greater amount
summarize recent trends in theory concerning the of time girls spend in relationship activities (vs. boys’
determinants of gender differentiation. We use the greater time spent alone, playing video games, watch-
terms sex and gender interchangeably. ing television, or playing ball), in girls’ preference for
part time jobs that put them in contact with people, such
as waitressing and babysitting (vs. boys’ preference for
manual labor and working with tools), and in girls’
We summarize sex differences in several key areas of preferences for people-oriented occupations, such as
adolescent functioning. Much of our summary comes teacher or social worker (vs. boys’ interest in object-
from other recent reviews of this literature to which oriented occupations, such as mechanic or engineer).
readers may refer for primary sources (Galambos,
Berenbaum, & McHale, 2009; Ruble, Martin, & Self-concept. Sex differences are evident in
Berenbaum, 2006). Although our review highlights several aspects of adolescents’ self-concepts. With
differences between males and females as groups, the respect to self-perceived personality traits, females
differences often are quite small, undermining the view report themselves to be higher on neuroticism,
that sex differences are ubiquitous and largeFthat agreeableness, warmth, and openness to feelings,
‘‘Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.’’ whereas males see themselves as more assertive and
open to ideas (Costa, Terracciano, & McCrae, 2001).
Although females report more expressive attributes
Summary of Gender Differences
than males do, they do not view themselves as any less
Abilities and interests. Apart from males’ instrumental than males doFexcept when it comes to
greater physical strength and females’ ability to bear financial and romantic matters (Sneed et al., 2006).
children, there are few sex differences in adolescents’ Boys’ competence beliefs are higher than girls’ for
abilities (Galambos et al., 2009). Girls do better on math, computers, and sports; girls’ are stronger than
boys’ for reading, English, music, art, and social

Requests for reprints should be sent to David G. Perry, De- r 2011 The Authors
partment of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Journal of Research on Adolescence r 2011 Society for Research on Adolescence
FL 33431. E-mail: perrydg@fau.edu DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00715.x

studies (Harter, 2006; Hyde, 2005). These gender Most adolescents’ friendships and group inter-
differences are larger than would be expected from actions are with same-sex others (as was true in
real differences in abilities, suggesting that other earlier years too). However, adolescents participate
factors (e.g., gender stereotypes) contribute. increasingly in mixed-sex groups and dating
Girls have poorer body image than boys. Many girls relationships (Brown, 2004). The sexes differ in style
invest in a thin ideal, overestimate males’ preference of relating to friends and romantic partners. Girls’ style
for slender female bodies, view themselves as fatter is more often ‘‘preoccupied’’ (marked by intense needs
than other girls, compare themselves negatively with for closeness and by anxiety over possible rejection)
female media models, and consequently become and boys’ more often avoidant (dismissive of intimacy;
dissatisfied with their bodies (Harter, 2006). Body Connolly, Furman, & Konarski, 2000; Doyle, Lawford,
dissatisfaction is a risk factor for eating disorders & Markiewicz, 2009). Perhaps adolescence is a time
(anorexia, bulimia), depression, self-mutilation, low when youths consolidate a preferred style of relating in
self-esteem, appearance rumination, and unnecessary close relationships. It is important to identify the
cosmetic surgery (Ruble et al., 2006). Girls who view origins of these relationship styles because they
themselves as athletic or instrumental have fewer predict important aspects of social and personal
body-image concerns. Boys’ body-image concerns functioning in adulthood (e.g., avoidant men are
usually focus on a wish to be more muscular, but more sexually promiscuous; preoccupied women are
these concerns can also lead to health problems more angered by perceived partner lack of support).
(e.g., compulsive body building, eating disorders; Youths of both sexes who are named by peers as
Ricciardelli & McCabe, 2004). ‘‘popular’’ tend to be socially skilled, to wear stylish
Beginning in early adolescence, girls’ self-esteem is clothes, and to prefer indirect forms of aggression (e.g.,
lower than boys’. Self-esteem rests mainly on gossip, social exclusion). Popular boys tend to be
perceptions of (a) acceptance and respect from others athletic, funny, defiant, and daring; popular girls tend
and (b) adequacy in valued domains (e.g., academics, to be attractive (and thin), snobby, and cliquish (Closson,
body image, sports). Girls’ self-esteem is especially 2009; Rose, Glick, & Smith, 2011). Adolescents
damaged by relationship problems (e.g., rejection; nominated as popular are not necessarily rated by
Cross & Madson, 1997). Self-esteem is strongly peers as highly likable (Cillessen & Mayeux, 2004).
affected by body image for both sexes (Harter, 2006).
Boys’ gender identity is stronger than girls’. Aggression. Male youths display more direct
Compared with girls, boys view themselves as physical and verbal aggression toward same-sex
more similar to same-sex others (i.e., as more others than do girls. Also, males’ aggression is
gender typical), are more content with their gender, more often unprovoked, impulsive, and undeterred
and place more pressure on themselves for gender by danger or risk. Females appear more afraid of the
conformity (Egan & Perry, 2001). Sexual identity (self- consequences of aggressing directly, but when they
labeling as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual) is can aggress anonymously or embed their aggression
more fluid among females (Diamond, 2008). in collective action, they can rival males in aggres-
siveness (Hyde, 2005). In late adolescence, there
Social relationships. Sex differences are more is a sharp increase in serious violence by males
evident in adolescents’ relationships with their peers (Archer, 2009).
than with their parents or siblings. Girls’ same-sex Childhood aggression forecasts sustained aggression
friendships are characterized by greater intimacy, and school dropout in adolescence for both males
self-disclosure, validation, caring, and relationship and females. Although a history of direct, physical
repair, but also by more co-rumination (sharing of aggression is less common among girls, it nonetheless
woes) and jealousy; boys’ are marked by more predicts a variety of negative outcomes for adolescent
friendly competition, agentic and risky activities, girls, including early sexuality, sexually transmitted
excitement, direct control efforts, and inhibition of diseases, teen motherhood, delivery complications,
tender feelings and intimacy (Benenson & Christakos, smoking, irresponsible parenting, and rearing aggres-
2003; Parker, Low, Walker, & Gamm, 2005; Rose, sive offspring (Serbin & Karp, 2004).
Carlson, & Waller, 2007). These different styles may Adolescent girls enact more indirect than direct
render girls more vulnerable to depression (especially aggression, but they are only trivially (if at all) more
following negative relationship events) but protect indirectly aggressive than boys (Card, Stucky,
them from externalizing behavior (e.g., aggression, Sawalani, & Little, 2008). Despite the fact that
recklessness); the reverse may be true for boys (Rose enacting indirect aggression is correlated with being
& Rudolph, 2006). perceived as popular, it is associated with internalizing

problems (depression, anxiety; Card et al., 2008). Also, differences are group size, familiarity of interaction
being a target of indirect aggression is more painful for partner, public versus private setting, mixed-sex
girls than for boys (Prinstein & Cillessen, 2003). Thus, versus single-sex group, and male versus female
either perpetrating or receiving indirect aggression interaction partner (Deaux & Major, 1987; Hyde,
may place adolescent girlsFeven popular onesFat 2005). Several examples bear mention. Within all-
risk for depression. boy groups one finds more competition and conflict
Adolescence is marked by an increase in peer sex- than within mixed-sex or all-girl groups; all-girl
ual harassment (e.g., calling someone gay or les- groups display more nurturance and empathy than
bian, spreading sexual rumors, pulling at someone’s mixed-sex or all-boy groups (Ruble et al., 2006). A
clothes). Male youths are more often the perpetrators. sex difference in assertion (favoring boys) is larger in
Early maturing girls and gay and lesbian youths are mixed-sex than in same-sex groups (Leaper & Smith,
common targets. Overall, boys and girls are harassed 2004). When going on a date with an other-sex
to similar degrees, but girls are more hurt by it (Leaper person, dating scripts often prevail (e.g., the boy
& Brown, 2008; McMaster, Connolly, Pepler, & Craig, asks the girl out, the boy pays, the girl defers to the
2002). boy’s plans). Sex differences in recreational choices
Within dating relationships, females aggress and interaction styles are more marked when youths
physically toward their partners as often as males do, are with peers (especially same-sex peers) than when
but females are more likely to be injured (Archer, 2009; with family members (McHale, Kim, Whiteman, &
Frieze, 2000; O’Leary, 2000). Perhaps there are sex Crouter, 2004). It is when they know they are being
differences in the motives underlying, and the observed that females aggress less and smile more
circumstances eliciting, aggression toward romantic than males, and males are more heroic than females
partners (Anderson, 2005). (Hyde, 2005).
The advent of electronic communication (Internet, The context dependence of a sex difference may or
cell phones) has opened the door to new forms of may not imply ‘‘flexibility’’ in a response. Voluntary
bullying and victimization (both direct and indirect). behaviors (e.g., smiling) may be flexible in the sense
Males and females participate about equally in that they can be produced at will by most persons in
electronic aggression, as both perpetrators and most contexts, but some context-dependent sex
victims (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008; Williams & differences are less controllable. For example, sexual
Guerra, 2007). ‘‘Sexting’’ (e.g., a girl sends a nude arousal ordinarily is greater among males than
picture of herself to a boy) and its repercussions (e.g., females in the presence of an attractive female, and
the boy circulates the picture among his friends, the is greater among females than males in the presence
girl is humiliated) are also growing problems. of an attractive male, but this does not mean that
links between sexual stimuli and sexual arousal can
Depression. A gender difference in depression be easily altered. Similarly, certain gender-
emerges around age 13 and increases through age 18 differentiated context-specific emotional reactions
(Galambos et al., 2009; Hyde, 2005). Girls surpass (e.g., anger, jealousy, fear, shame, guilt, sadness)
boys not only in depression but also in related may not be easily learned or unlearned. Different
problems, such as eating disorders and nonsuicidal causes may underlie easily modified versus less
self-injury (e.g., cutting). Girls are more vulnerable easily modified context-dependent sex differences.
to several forms of depressogenic thought, includ- Sex differences may also reflect differential
ing self-blaming causal attributions, poor body tendencies of the sexes to place themselves in sit-
image, negative social comparison, hypervigilance uations conducive to particular behaviors (Zakriski,
for potential stress, and ‘‘counterfactual analysis’’ Wright, & Underwood, 2005). For example, boys may
rumination (i.e., obsessing over the future con- choose situations that encourage competition, whereas
sequences of hypothetical decisions; Andrews & girls may seek opportunities for self-disclosure. More
Thompson, 2009; Hyde, Mezulis, & Abramson, 2008). research on the factors leading male and female
youths to select particular contexts is needed. In-
terviewing youths about how they plan to spend
Trends and Issues in Research on Gender
their next weekend (and why) might be illuminating.
Gender as a moderator of developmental
Context and gender differences. As our review process. Many causal variables (e.g., parental
suggested, sex differences often depend on context. rejection, pubertal timing) affect males and females
Among the contextual variables that affect sex differently. Some examples are noteworthy. Being

popular tends to have negative consequences for imperative (Ruble et al., 2006). However, it has
girls (e.g., internalizing problems, being disliked, been suggested that the challenges of early
enacting indirect aggression) but to have positive adolescence (e.g., physical maturation, increased
outcomes for boys (Rose et al., 2011). Early puberty heterosexual interaction, prospect of parenthood,
carries more risks for girls than for boys (Collins & and other adult roles) rekindle youths’ concern
Steinberg, 2006). Even though girls feel less pressure with gender conformity (Hill & Lynch, 1983).
for gender conformity than boys do, such pressure As plausible as this hypothesis may be, it does not
leads to internalizing symptoms only for girls appear that adolescence intensifies in any general
(Yunger, Carver, & Perry, 2004). Girls are also more way youths’ pressures for gender conformity. Most
likely than boys to develop depression as a result of evidence suggests that such pressures continue to
relationship break-up, poor body image, and rumi- decline across adolescence (Egan & Perry, 2001;
nation (Andrews & Thompson, 2009; Hyde et al., Galambos et al., 2009). Nonetheless, there are in-
2008). The expanding list of gender-as-moderator creases in adolescence in several specific gender-
effects indicates that researchers need to devote typed attributes for each sex. For example, boys
more attention to the biological, cognitive, and increase in body building and, later, violent crime;
social factors responsible for the differential girls increase in depression, eating disorders, time
sensitivity of males and females to certain contexts spent in relationship activities, and preference for
and experiences. people-oriented careers; girls also decline in sports
participation (Galambos et al., 2009; Signorella &
Social information processing models as Frieze, 2008). Gender differences in competency
promising frameworks for investigating gender beliefs (e.g., males’ greater self-efficacy for math)
differences. One reason males and females may generally do not increase in adolescence (Wigfield
react differently to a given contextual cue or social et al., 2006).
experience is that they differ in how they process
social information. We noted that girls are more likely Intersection of gender and ethnicity/race. There
than boys to compare their bodies to those of media is a trend to examine gender differences as a function
models, to scan their environments for possible of ethnicity/race, though the data are yet quite
impending stressors, and to react adversely (e.g., sparse. Black girls have higher academic outcomes
with self-blame) to relationship setbacks. Research (e.g., better grades) than Black boys, a result that may
on aggression (Dodge, 1986) and on achievement be linked to greater racial discrimination toward
motivation (Wigfield, Eccles, Schiefele, Roeser, & Black boys and how they cope with it (Chavous,
Davis-Kean, 2006) also reveals gender differences Rivas-Drake, Smalls, Cogburn, & Griffin, 2008). Also,
in social – cognitive processing. Social information unlike the case for White youths, Black girls tend not
processing models (e.g., Crick & Dodge, 1994) to have lower self-esteem than Black boys (Greene &
might be useful frameworks for more systematic Way, 2005).
investigation of sex differences in other domains of
social and personal functioning, such as close Meta-analysis and gender differences. A trend in
relationship functioning and coping with stress and research on gender differences is the use of meta-
threat. For any given domain of interest (e.g., analysisFa technique that combines the results of
romantic relationship functioning), the researcher multiple studies that have examined a sex difference
might specify several key social cues that, based on in order to (a) estimate the average size of the sex
prior research or theory, are likely candidates for difference, (b) estimate between-study variability in
exposing sex differences in cognitive processing the size of this difference, and (c) identify moderator
(e.g., partner fails to return a phone call, partner variables (e.g., age of participants, context,
pays attention to a romantic rival, partner tries to assessment strategy) that account for any between-
solicit intimacy) and investigate possible sex differ- study variability in the sex difference (e.g., Card
ences in how the cues are cognitively processed. et al., 2008; Hyde, 2005). Meta-analyses have
produced valuable information. They have helped
The gender intensification hypothesis. Preschool us recognize that sex differences are not absolute
children believe strongly that people should con- differences and for some behaviors are, on average,
form to gender roles, and they strive hard to do quite small. They have also illuminated sources of
so themselves. With the attainment of gender variability in sex differences across studies. For
conservation around age 6 or 7, children start to example, age moderates the sex difference in
relax their belief that rigid gender conformity is depression, with girls showing greater depression

beginning in early adolescence; this underscores the people’s male typicality or female typicality in a
need to research the origins of depression (and the broader way (i.e., people’s ‘‘masculinity’’ or ‘‘femi-
sex difference therein) in early adolescence. ninity’’). Thus, they aggregate multiple measures of
In our view, researchers using meta-analysis have specific male typed (and female typed) attributes to
afforded insufficient attention to the implications of form composite measures. Such composites are said
within-study interactions of sex with other variables. to assess ‘‘gender typing’’ and can be correlated with
First, studies that have found sex to interact with other variables (e.g., hormones, family practices,
another predictor of a behavior probably should be knowledge of gender stereotypes).
excluded from a meta-analysis designed to estimate A nagging question, however, is how (and even
an average sex difference in the behavior. When a whether) to do such aggregating. It was once as-
main effect (in this case, sex) interacts with another sumed that all male-typed attributes are positively
variable, it loses meaning unless it is considered in intercorrelated, that all female-typed attributes are
the context of different levels of the variable with positively intercorrelated, and that all male-typed
which it interacts. For example, if a study has found attributes are negatively correlated with all female-
a strong sex difference favoring males in one context typed attributes. Thus, individual differences in
and an equally strong sex difference favor- gender typing were believed to be distributed along
ing females in another context, the main effect of a single dimension ranging from very male typed
sex will be zero, and entering this score into a (masculine) to very female typed (feminine). Bem
meta-analysis will mask the large context-specific (1981) challenged this view, arguing that male-typed
sex differences. The resulting estimated average sex attributes intercorrelate into one factor and female-
difference will be of uncertain value. typed attributes intercorrelate into a second, or-
Second, given the ubiquity of within-study thogonal factor. Thus, masculinity and femininity
interactions involving gender, and given that ad- became two independent dimensions (rather than
vances in gender science rest on cataloguing and polar opposites of a single continuum). Bem based
understanding these interactions, the interactions her claim on the fact that self-perception of male
themselves should serve as fodder for meta-analysis. typed, instrumental personality traits tends to be
That is, meta-analysis should be used to estimate the orthogonal to self-perception of female typed, ex-
cross-study reliability of a theory-relevant gender pressive traits. However, because neither male-typed
interaction (and its pattern). This of course requires attributes nor female-typed attributes are highly in-
the availability of multiple studies testing a given tercorrelated across different domains (e.g., activity
interaction, but given researchers’ growing interest in preferences, personality traits, sexual orientation,
such interactions, this should soon be a real possibility. relationship styles), one cannot infer a person’s
In the meantime, researchers might get started by overall male typicality or female typicality from the
conducting old-fashioned narrative (qualitative) person’s gender typing in any given domain
reviews of important gender interactions that have (Spence, 1985).
been investigated in at least a few studies. Today’s trend is to treat each of the sets of
male-typed and female-typed attributes as multidi-
mensional and heterogeneous. Some researchers
aggregate but only across exemplars of a given do-
Here we examine the status of three constructs that main (e.g., recreational activities or personality
figure prominently in theory and research on gen- traits). Others investigate individual sex-typed at-
derFgender typing, gender stereotypes, and gender tributes (e.g., interest in math, time spent in close
identity. These constructs are especially (but not ex- relationship activities) rather than composites. The
clusively) relevant to understanding within-gender terms ‘‘masculinity’’ and ‘‘femininity’’ have fallen
individual differences in gender differentiation. out of favor. Most investigators recognize that it is
inappropriate to infer people’s overall masculinity
or femininity from scores on any particular do-
Gender Typing
main-specific set of gender-typed attributes (e.g.,
An attribute is said to be ‘‘gender typed’’ if it is personality traits).
gender differentiated (i.e., either empirically ob- It was once popular to characterize people as
served or rated by judges to vary with gender). The ‘‘androgynous’’ if they possessed a balance of in-
preceding section summarized a number of specific strumental and expressive personality traits (Bem,
gender-typed attributes. Sometimes, however, re- 1981). However, this practice is also losing favor. For
searchers wish to assess individual differences in the same reason that one cannot infer people’s

overall masculinity or femininity from their gender lective opinion. Assessing gender typing using the
typing in any single domain, one cannot identify individual youth’s opinions as the criterion entails
people whose gender typing is generally ‘‘androgy- assessing the degree to which each youth possesses
nous’’ from their gender typing in any single the specific attributes that he or she personally views
domain. Qualifying as androgynous in one domain as male typed or female typed. There is debate over
(e.g., personality traits) does not necessarily indi- the relative merits of this idiographic approach to
cate androgyny in any other domain (e.g., sexual assessing gender typing versus the more traditional
orientation). approach (Hegarty, 2009). It is likely that both ap-
Although it is misleading to characterize people proaches have merit, depending on a study’s pur-
as generally masculine, feminine, or androgynous on poses. For example, gender typing scores that reflect
the basis of any single aspect of gender typing, the the degree to which youths are fulfilling their own
assessment pendulum may have swung too far in the conceptions of maleness or femaleness may be es-
direction of assessing specific sex-typed attributes. pecially good predictors of youths’ felt gender typi-
Broader-based assessments of gender typing (i.e., cality and adequacy, whereas gender typing scores
assessments that cut across several domains of gen- that reflect adherence to collective opinion may be
der-typed attributes) may also be valuable. We sug- better predictors of youths’ evaluations by others
gest that more effort be devoted to exploring latent (e.g., peer acceptance and rejection).
sources of variability underlying diverse gender-
typed attributes. It is clear that different gender-
Gender Stereotypes
typed attributes are not as entirely independent as
sometimes suggested, as the following examples Gender stereotypes are people’s beliefs about how
hint. Preferences for same-sex companions and ac- the sexes differ (descriptive stereotypes) or should
tivities predict (modestly) sexual orientation (Bailey differ (prescriptive stereotypes). A person’s stereo-
& Zucker, 1995); girls who play with boys and en- types affect numerous aspects of psychological
gage in boy-typed activities are more likely to pursue functioning, including attention and memory, social
a career as adults (Tyler, 1964); men with deep voices perception, social behavior (especially in certain
are more gender typed in their traits and interests contexts, such as when on a date), reactions to one’s
(Aube, Norcliffe, & Koestner, 1995). Thus, studies are own and to others’ behavior, and one’s interests,
needed that assess multiple sex-typed attributes and values, and self-perceived competencies (Ruble et al.,
use both variable-oriented strategies (e.g., factor 2006).
analysis) and person-oriented strategies (e.g., cluster In the traditional approach to assessing individual
analysis) to identify dimensions and patterns. Within differences in stereotypes, researchers first compile
each sex, there likely exist several gender-typing lists of male-typed and female-typed attributes
subtypes, such as (a) youths who display marked (usually on the basis of judges’ ratings). The lists are
same-gender typing across multiple domains (e.g., presented to youths who are asked to tell (a) whether
the ‘‘pink frilly dress’’ girls noted by Ruble, 2004), (b) each attribute is male typical or female typical (the
youths who are same-gender typed in one way but number of ‘‘correct’’ responses is taken as an index of
not in another (e.g., among boys, athletes vs. science stereotype ‘‘knowledge’’) and (b) whether it is per-
club members), (c) youths who exhibit a mix of male- missible for persons of both sexes to display each
typical and female-typical attributes, and (d) a few attribute (the number of affirmative answers is taken
youths who are predominantly cross-gender-typed as a measure of stereotype ‘‘flexibility’’). Such
(e.g., youths with gender identity disorder). Once knowledge and flexibility scores are valuable for
dimensions and patterns of gender typing are iden- many purposes, but they fail to accord importance to
tified, they can be related to hypothesized anteced- the content of the particular stereotypes a youth
ents and consequences. knows or endorses. Two youths may know or en-
Gender-typed attributes are traditionally identi- dorse a similar number of same-gender stereotypes
fied on the basis of either observed differences be- yet not overlap at all in which attributes these are
tween the sexes or consensus opinion. Another way (Tobin et al., 2010). One may believe that boys should
to identify gender-typed attributes, however, is to inhibit expression of tender emotions, use aggression
exploit the unique perspective of each individual to attain goals, and take dangerous risks, but need
youth (Tobin et al., 2010). Different youths have not run for class president, learn chess, or excel in
different ideas as to what attributes are male typed math and science courses; the other’s stereotypes
or female typed, and their opinions do not always may reflect precisely the reverse priorities. The
coincide with either real gender differences or col- specific content and prioritization of a youth’s

stereotypes (especially prescriptive ones) affect the 1985). A related issue is why some youths are ac-
impact the stereotypes will have. Thus, researchers cepting of what they perceive to be gender atypicality
increasingly are focusing on individual differences in in themselves or others but other youths react harshly.
the specific content of youths’ stereotypes. Three Understanding the roots of such attitudes is impor-
ways of achieving this focus are notable. tant because self-appraisals of gender atypicality are
First, researchers may focus on youths’ stereo- associated with low self-esteem (see next section) and
typing of a single attribute (e.g., math competence, because peers perceived as gender atypical tend to be
indirect aggression) and relate that specific stereo- the targets of sexual harassment and aggression.
type to antecedent or outcome variables (e.g., Nosek, By adolescence, most youths realize that males
Banaji, & Greenwald, 2002). occupy more powerful, dominant, and higher status
Second, prescriptive stereotypes sometimes clus- positions than females, and they learn that discrim-
ter to form gender ideologies, or philosophies about ination contributes to these differences (Bigler &
what the sexes are like or how they should behave. Liben, 2007; Leaper & Brown, 2008). Learning about
Such ideologies include (a) the belief that traditional discrimination helps girls recognize it and can also
gender roles (e.g., homemaker for women, wage boost girls’ self-efficacy for science study (Weisgram
earner for men) should be perpetuated (Spence & & Bigler, 2007). How boys are affected by learning
Helmreich, 1972); (b) intergroup bias, or the ten- about discrimination also warrants investigation.
dency to assign more favorable traits to one’s own
gender than to the other (Bigler, 1999; Powlishta,
Gender Identity
1995); (c) ambivalent sexism, or an attitude that
represents a compromise between a fundamentally Gender identity encompasses representations of self
disparaging attitude toward, and the need for ro- in relation to gender categories. Gender identity has
mantic contact with, the other sex (e.g., a male been defined in several ways, including comfort
youth’s protection of, but expectation of obedience with one’s gender, self-perception of adherence to
from, his girlfriend; Glick & Hilt, 2000); (d) dating gender stereotypes, and internalized social pressure
and sexual scripts (e.g., Krahe, Bieneck, & Schein- for conforming to gender stereotypes. Despite this
berger-Olwig, 2007); and (e) masculine ideology, or diversity of conceptualization, researchers have ten-
the belief that boys and men should be competitive, ded to use a single strategy for assessing gender
unafraid of risks, defiant of authority, self-reliant, identity. This strategy has been to take youths’ self-
dominant, and emotionally stoic (e.g., Shearer, perceptions of instrumental and expressive traits as
Hosterman, Gillen, & Lefkowitz, 2005). These phi- assessments of masculine and feminine identity, re-
losophies are associated with adjustment and be- spectively. This practice originated with Bem (1981).
havior (e.g., self-esteem, aggression), but little is There are several problems with this practice. First,
known about their origins. it involves inferring gender identity from self-per-
Third, youths cognitively group peers of each sex ceived gender typing. This is problematic because
into subgroups according to their shared attributes many theories suggest that gender identity is a cause of
and form stereotypes and attitudes toward the gender typing (i.e., that gender identity affects the
groups (e.g., view pink frilly dress girls as nice but adoption of gender-typed attributes), and one cannot
helpless); especially negative attitudes often are test such theories without distinguishing the two con-
formed toward same-sex outgroups (Eckes, Trautner, structs conceptually and empirically. Second, because
& Behrendt, 2005). Youths may use these subgroup the degree to which a person is male typical (or female
stereotypes to identify the kind of boy or girl they typical) in one domain (e.g., personality traits) is not
would like to be (Ruble & Martin, 2002). highly correlated with how male typical (or female
A topic that has received little attention is how typical) the person is in other domains (e.g., sexual
stereotypes figure in youths’ judgments about the orientation), it is ill advised to infer a person’s overall
overall male typicality (masculinity) and female typ- gender identity from his or her self-perception of gen-
icality (femininity) of themselves and others. Within der typing in any single domain. Third, because
any given culture, there is likely to be some com- different youths possess different gender stereotypes,
monality in the criteria (i.e., stereotypes) people use to they are likely to rely on self-perception of different
make such judgments (see Horowitz & Turan, 2008, attributes when estimating their maleness or female-
for a method to explore this issue). However, because ness (Egan & Perry, 2001; Spence, 1985; Tobin et al.,
youths’ stereotypes can differ, there will also be in- 2010). Many youths may pay no attention to instru-
dividual differences in the calculus youths use to mental and expressive traits but place great weight
make these appraisals (Egan & Perry, 2001; Spence, on sexual orientation, physical appearance, stylistic

qualities (e.g., deepness of voice), adherence to a gen- anxiety), especially for girls (Egan & Perry, 2001;
der ideology, or something else. Fourth, although Yunger et al., 2004). This confirms Bem’s (1981, 1993)
gender identity can be conceptualized in several ways, prediction that felt pressure is harmful because it
this customary practice captures only one of them, promotes adoption of unfulfilling options, impedes
namely, self-perception of conformity to gender ste- exploration of possibly fulfilling options, under-
reotypes; the practice does not, for example, allow in- mines feelings of autonomy, and leads people to live
ferences about the degree to which individuals have in fear of shame for gender ‘‘transgressions.’’ Ironi-
internalized societal pressure for gender conformity. cally, it was not possible to confirm Bem’s prediction
Finally, self-perceptions of instrumental and expressive using her own methods because her measure of felt
traits do not predict other gender phenomena that pressure (imbalance of instrumental and expressive
should be predictable from gender identity (Spence, traits in the self-concept) failed to capture the con-
1993). For these reasons, it would be wise to retire the ceptualization of gender identity that she intended
practice of inferring gender identity from self-percep- (internalized societal pressure).
tions of instrumental and expressive traits (or from any Some associations of gender identity with adjust-
other particular set of gender-typed attributes). ment vary with ethnicity/race. For Hispanic boys,
Today’s trend is to view gender identity as felt pressure for gender conformity is associated with
comprising several dimensions and to assess fewer rather than more internalizing symptoms. For
each dimension separately (Ashmore, Deaux, & Hispanic girls, gender contentedness is associated
McLaughlin-Volpe, 2004; Egan & Perry, 2001; Tobin with fewer agentic competencies and with more in-
et al., 2010). To avoid the problems associated with ternalizing problems (Corby et al., 2007).
the practice just discussed, Egan and Perry suggested Patterns of gender identity are also important.
that measures intended to tap gender identity should White youths with a pattern of gender identity
require youths to draw inferences about themselves characterized by low gender typicality and high felt
in relation to gender category labels (e.g., ‘‘Do you pressure tend to be the most distressed (Egan &
feel similar to other girls?’’; ‘‘Are you happy being a Perry, 2001; Yunger et al., 2004). This is unsurprising,
boy?’’; ‘‘How important is it that you be like other but it does not mean that socializing agents (parents,
girls?’’). Such questions permit youths to apply their teachers) should try to make gender-atypical youths
own criteria for what it means to be male or female. more typical; this would simply make them feel
Tobin et al. (2010) distinguished five dimensions of more pressure for gender conformity. A better rem-
gender identity: (a) membership knowledge (knowl- edy would be to alleviate the pressures youths feel
edge of membership in a gender category); (b) gender for gender conformity.
centrality (the importance of gender relative to other
identities, e.g., ethnic/racial identity); (c) gender
contentedness (satisfaction with one’s gender); (d)
felt pressure for gender conformity (felt pressure Summaries of major theories of gender differentia-
from self and others for adhering to gender stereo- tion are available elsewhere (e.g., Ruble et al., 2006).
types); and (e) felt gender typicality (perceived sim- Here we highlight three kinds of influences on gen-
ilarity to same-gender others). By adolescence, most der differentiation (social, biological, cognitive) that
youths have a firm understanding of their member- figure in these theories. Most theories recognize that
ship in a gender category, though a few do not two or more kinds of influences work in concert to
(Diamond & Butterworth, 2008). However, individ- effect gender differentiation. For example, social
ual differences in the other four components of cognitive theory specifies that youths’ experiences
gender identity remain considerable (Egan & Perry, with their environments (e.g., exposure to male and
2001; Luhtanen & Crocker, 1992; Sanchez & Crocker, female models, consequences received for gender-
2005). typed behavior) lead them to develop cognitions
Gender identity affects youths’ mental health. (e.g., outcome expectations, self-efficacy perceptions,
Among White youths, gender typicality and gen- standards for self-evaluation) that affect gendered
der contentment are generally favorable influences conduct (Bussey & Bandura, 1999).
on adjustment (e.g., self-esteem and acceptance by
peers; Carver, Yunger, & Perry, 2003; Corby, Hodges,
Social Influences
& Perry, 2007; Egan & Perry, 2001; Smith & Leaper,
2004; Yunger et al., 2004). In contrast, felt pressure for The family, peer group, and media all participate in
gender conformity predicts internalizing problems socializing gender. Youths whose parents express
(e.g., low self-esteem, peer-reported sadness and traditional attitudes toward gender roles are more

likely to hold traditional attitudes themselves (Ten- Biological Influences

enbaum & Leaper, 2003). Having gay or lesbian
Early occurring biological factorsFgenes and pre-
parents, however, has little effect on youths’ ro-
natal hormonesFaffect gender differentiation in
mantic attractions and behaviors (Wainright, Russell,
adolescence. Several aspects of gender typing are
& Patterson, 2004). Girls appear to be more suscep-
heritable (Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000). Also, ad-
tible to certain family influences than boys. Girls
olescent girls exposed prenatally to high levels of
whose parents cultivate a gender-differentiated di-
androgens are more interested in male-typed activi-
vision of labor in the home do more poorly in school
ties and occupations, more aggressive, more skilled
than girls from more egalitarian homes (Galambos
at spatial tasks, more likely to be bisexual or lesbian,
et al., 2009). Maternal distress and interparent conflict
and less interested in babies (Galambos et al., 2009).
are associated with depression for girls (Crawford,
Pubertal hormones affect gender differentiation as
Cohen, Midlarsky, & Brook, 2001). Girls who perceive
well, and in several ways. Hormones can encourage
their parents as rejecting are more dissatisfied with
aggression among boys (Galambos et al., 2009), ac-
their bodies (Barker & Galambos, 2003). Parents who
tivate a gene for disordered eating (Klump, Burt,
stereotype math and science as for males tend to
McGue, & Iacono, 2007), and encourage sexual in-
undermine their daughters’ efforts in these areas by
terest and activity (especially for boys; Collins &
giving them limited support (e.g., help with home-
Steinberg, 2006). Sexual orientation, however, ordi-
work), less encouragement, and fewer opportunities
narily develops before puberty (i.e., usually by age
for advanced study (Wigfield et al., 2006). Culture
10; McClintock & Herdt, 1996). The timing of pu-
matters too. Hispanic families are more marked by
berty matters too, with early puberty carrying risks
gender-typed expectations and practices than are
for girls. Early-maturing girls have poorer body im-
White families (Raffaelli & Ontai, 2004).
age (owing in part to added body fat), often are
Peers socialize gender as well. For example, the
targeted for sexual harassment, and tend to have
more time male youths spend interacting with male
earlier sexual involvement with older boys; these
(vs. female) peers, the more gender typed their per-
factors, in turn, encourage depression (Stice, Pres-
sonality traits and interests become (McHale, Kim,
nell, & Bearman, 2001; Weichold, Silbereisen, &
Dotterer, Crouter, & Booth, 2009). It is sometimes
Schmitt-Rodermund, 2003). For boys, late rather than
suggested that girls profit from attending all-girl
early puberty is more often associated with adjust-
schools because gender divisions and stereotypes are
ment problems (e.g., depression, peer rejection).
less likely to be a negative influence. However, the
A salient feature of recent research is evidence for
evidence does not consistently reveal advantages of
the interaction of biological and social-context
single-sex education (Galambos et al., 2009). The
influences, as the following examples indicate. A
conversations youths have with their peers matter too.
combination of high testosterone and poor parent –
The more that boys speak disparagingly about females
youth relationship quality is associated with risk
with male peers, the more they aggress toward female
taking (Booth, Johnson, Granger, McHale, & Crouter,
relationship partners later (Capaldi, Dishion, Stool-
2003). Maltreatment during childhood presages de-
miller, & Yoerger, 2001); the more that girls discuss
pression mainly for youths who are genetically pre-
physical appearance with other girls, the more they
disposed to depression (Caspi et al., 2003). Early
internalize the thin ideal and express dissatisfaction
puberty for girls is associated with depression
with their own bodies (Clark & Tiggemann, 2007). For
mainly when girls also face social risks (e.g., associ-
girls, romantic involvements are associated with de-
ation with older male peers, promiscuous friends,
pression and poorer academic performance, and the
disadvantaged neighborhoods; Conley & Rudolph,
breakup of a romantic relationship is the most com-
2009; Weichold et al., 2003).
mon trigger of a first episode of major depression
(Brendgen, Vitaro, Doyle, Bukowski, & Markiewicz,
2002; Collins & Steinberg, 2006).
Cognitive Influences
Heavy viewing of television and music videos
encourages traditional gender role attitudes, poor We noted that certain contextual cues (e.g., peer
body image (for both sexes), and sexual stereotypes provocation, relationship threat) trigger different
(‘‘girls want love, boys want sex’’; Blakemore, Be- social information processing by males and females.
renbaum, & Liben, 2009). Some media messages are However, biology may be an additional interacting
reinforced by reality. For example, being thin actu- influence. Two recent models of depression, for ex-
ally increases girls’ chances of a romantic relation- ample, stress that biological factors (e.g., tempera-
ship (Halpern, King, Oslak, & Udry, 2005). ment, pubertal hormones, and timing) combine with

social-situational factors (e.g., relationship stress) as Maccoby (1998) proposed that boys and girls learn
well as with stable cognitions (e.g., poor body image, different behavioral styles during sex-segregated
low self-esteem, high value placed on relationship interactions in childhood (e.g., more dominance
exclusivity, felt pressure for gender conformity) to seeking by males, more closeness among girls) that
yield information processing (e.g., self-blame, rumi- ill equip them for amicable heterosexual relation-
nation) that fosters depression (Andrews & Thomp- ships in later years. A decade later, we have few data
son, 2009; Hyde et al., 2008). bearing on this provocative hypothesis. Even pat-
Two recent theories suggest that two kinds of gen- terns of adolescent social behavior that appear dis-
der cognitionsFgender identity and gender stereo- continuous with childhood behavior may grow out
typesFcombine to influence gender differentiation. of earlier patterns of interaction. For example, pre-
First, Greenwald et al. (2002) posit that people adopt adolescent boys’ more extensive but less intimate
an attribute they associate with a gender category (i.e., same-sex friendship networks may foster an avoid-
emulate a gender stereotype) mainly to the extent that ant close relationship style that contributes to the
they identify with that gender. For example, females greater male sexual promiscuity seen in adolescence
who perceive math to be male typed and who identify and adulthood (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). Sexist
strongly with being female should exclude math from attitudes in adolescence also may originate in
their self-concept. Greenwald and colleagues have childhood. Glick and Hilt (2000) hypothesized that
found support for their model mainly when the cen- ambivalent sexism results when adolescents fail to
tral constructs have been assessed implicitly (uncon- outgrow their immature hostility toward the other
sciously) using the Implicit Association Test. sex yet find themselves drawn sexually to that sex.
In a second model, Tobin et al. (2010) propose that In turn, how adolescents meet the challenges of
each youth develops a fairly unique combination of gender is likely to affect how they negotiate gender
gender identity and gender stereotype elements (e.g., as adults. Sexual bullying by adolescent boys may be
a boy’s gender identity might be marked by espe- a precursor to more severe forms of sexualized vio-
cially low felt gender typicality and high felt pressure lence in adulthood (e.g., date rape, intimate partner
for gender conformity, and his stereotypes by high violence, gay bashing; Fredland, 2008). The romantic
masculine ideology and high ambivalent sexism). attachments of adolescents may determine whether
These personal identity-plus-stereotype patterns, or they will adopt and carry forward into marital rela-
‘‘gender cognition signatures’’ (GCSs), are viewed as tionships a secure or insecure relationship style.
causal cognitive systems that influence youths’ ef- By investigating issues such as these, it should
forts to develop and regulate the self. Higher levels of eventually be possible to develop theories concern-
gender identity are expected to encourage youths to ing how gender phenomena interconnect across all
emulate the gender stereotypes they endorse. It is three developmental periodsFchildhood, adoles-
further proposed that many stereotypes are cogni- cence, and adulthoodFand to test the theories with
tively represented with contextual tags (e.g., ‘‘When longitudinal research. It would be no surprise to find
arguing with her boyfriend, a girl lets the boy have that some important linkages between gender phe-
his way’’), and that when a youth encounters a social nomena in childhood and gender phenomena in
cue relevant to such a stereotype (e.g., a boy perceives adulthood are mediated by gender phenomena in
his girlfriend is being disrespectful), the youth’s GCS adolescence. Such findings would confirm that ad-
influences his or her social information processing olescence is indeed the crucial bridge between
and the resulting emotion and behavior (e.g., anger, childhood and adulthood it is reputed to be.
aggression). Identifying influential GCSs and their
determinants is an important research agenda.
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