Gender identity and adjustment in middle childhood

Abstract

Gender identity is a central construct in many accounts of psychosocial development, yet it has been defined in diverse ways. Kohlberg (1966) and Zucker et al. (1993) viewed gender identity as knowing that one is a member of one sex rather than the other; Kagan (1964) regarded gender identity as the degree to which one perceives the self as conforming to cultural stereotypes for one's gender; Bem (1981) saw gender identity as the degree to which one internalizes societal pressures for gender conformity; Green (1974) and Spence (1985) viewed gender identity as a fundamental sense of acceptance of, and of belonging to, one's gender. It is conceivable that all of the foregoing (and still other) conceptualizations of gender identity have merit but that different varieties or facets of gender identity serve different psychological functions or affect adjustment in different ways. Thus, it may be fruitful to regard gender identity as a multidimensional construct and to define gender identity as the collection of thoughts and feelings one has about one's gender category and one's membership in it. A recent study by Egan and Perry (2001) was built on this premise. Egan and Perry proposed that gender identity is composed of five major components: (a) membership knowledge (knowledge of membership in a gender category); (b) gender typicality (the degree to which one feels one is a typical member of one's gender category); (c) gender contentedness (the degree to which one is happy with one's gender assignment); (d) felt pressure for gender conformity (the degree to which one feels pressure from parents, peers, and self for conformity to gender stereotypes); and (e) intergroup bias (the extent to which one believes one's own sex is superior to the other). Egan and Perry (2001) measured the last four of these components of gender identity in preadolescent children and found the components to be relatively independent, to be fairly stable over a school year, and to relate to adjustment (i.e., self-esteem and peer acceptance) in different ways. Gender typicality and gender contentedness were favorably related to adjustment, whereas felt pressure and intergroup bias were negatively associated with adjustment. Links between the gender identity constructs and the adjustment indexes remained significant when children's perceptions of self-efficacy for a wide variety of sex-typed activities were statistically controlled. This suggests that the gender identity constructs carry implications for adjustment beyond self-perceptions of specific sex-linked competencies. The purposes of the …

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@inproceedings{Carver2007GenderIA, title={Gender identity and adjustment in middle childhood}, author={Priscilla R. Carver and Jennifer L. Yunger and David G. Perry}, year={2007} }