Influence of Peers on Gender Identity in Adolescence

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CHILD DEVELOPMENT

PEER INFLUENCE: THE DEVELOPMENT OF GENDER IDENTITY IN ADOLESCENCE

Kornienko, O., Santos, C. E., Martin, C. L., & Granger, K. L. (2016). Peer influence on gender identity development in adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 52(10), 1578–1592. retrieved from http://dx.doi.org.libaccess.hud.ac.uk/10.1037/dev0000200

INTRODUCTION

The article begins with a short overview on how gender identity is developed in which the author implies that during the period of adolescence, gender identity evolves through a process of personal reflection and the interaction from our social environment. However, peer influence has been said to play an important role in the socialisation of gendered behaviour, but no recent studies has been able to prove peer influences on gender identity (Kornienko, Santos, Martin & Granger, 2016). The aim of this recent study was to investigate if peer influence has an effect in between and within gender dimension of gender identity in young adolescent’s peer network which was carried out using a longitudinal social network modelling approach.

First and foremost, according to the authors peer influence has a stronger effect between-gender dimensions of Gender Identity (intergroup bias and felt pressure for gender conformity) than within-gender dimensions of Gender Identity (typicality and contentedness).

In this hypothesis, the authors found significant peer influence between-gender components of GI–intergroup bias among 7th and 8th graders as well as felt pressure for gender conformity among 8th graders but falls a little short as gender components of GI showed no evidence of peer influence.

Importantly, these peer socialization effects were evident even when controlling for tendencies to select friends who were similar on gender, gender typicality, and contentedness (8th graders only). However, employing longitudinal social network analyses provides insights and clarity about the roles of peers in gender development (Kornienko, Santos, Martin & Granger, 2016). 

According to Ruble, martin and Berenbaum (2006), gender development has been an area of focus on adolescent for years, many of this research has been concerned on the development of gender stereotypes rather than changes in gender related self-concepts. The authors of this article have been able to link Ruble, martin and Berenbaum (2006) research to previous studies conducted by Egan and Perry (2001) which gives multidimensional view and measure on how gender identity is developed. According to both authors, Individual differences in Gender Identity self-concepts emerge through an increased capacity for making social comparisons (Ruble & Dweck, 1995) and due to pressure from parents or peers to conform to gender norms (Yunger, Carver, & Perry, 2004). However, through trying to integrate the research conducted by Ruble, martin and Berenbaum (2006) and Egan(2001) some attention has been paid to the role of peers in gender typing (Jewell & Brown, 2014; Smith & Leaper, 2006) and sexism (Leaper & Brown, 2008), and speculative arguments have been made about the importance of peers in influencing gender development (Leaper & Friedman, 2007; Maccoby, 1998; Harris, 1995).

Nonetheless, the authors claim, no studies have empirically tested peer influence on dimensions of Gender Identity. There is a gap when examining the role peer influence on gender identity and this article has been able to address this gap by examining it on adolescent friendship network because gender identity is an evolving aspect of the self, its development needs to be considered using a longitudinal design (Kornienko, Santos, Martin & Granger, 2016). The authors attempt to find a middle ground as few studies have tested their influence and few that have focused on gendered behaviours such as interests and activities among preschool which says peers are theorised to have a major impact on children’s gender development.

METHODOLOGY

The approach taken by the authors to examine the hypothesis was convenient sampling as the participants were students at the public middle school in a southwestern U.S. metropolitan city. Among the participants, 89.7% of the students were racially and ethnically diverse, including 62.5% Latina & Latino students. However, not every student was asked to participate excepts students attending sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Though, the use of longitudinal social networking approach and use of large sample of ethnically diverse students was appropriate for the study, however the authors could have missed younger or older peers who could have influences on gender identity as data on friendship network was constrained to certain grade rather than the whole school (Egan & Perry,2001). Besides, without the attempt to gather information from adolescents not in school, a potential source of influence could have been missing due to the use of convenient sampling method (Leaper & Friedman, 2007).

This article followed the BPS code of conduct, as the method used to collect data from the participants were ethical. The teachers introduced the study to students, including the parents through an informational letter which was written in English and Spanish to accommodate Spanish-speaking parents. According to the authors, parents were given the option to opt in or out of their child’s participation in the study.

Furthermore, the research was conducted through a qualitative method as every participant was asked to complete a survey in their classrooms. However, as students responded questions about their identity, psychological and educational background, the authors seem not to put into consideration that not all students will be comfortable or able to respond to questions based on their psychological test or background (Egan & Perry,2001).

RESULTS

The use of descriptive analysis was the approach taken by the authors to examine the results. The results presented by the authors and the literature review supports the claim they made which indicate relative stability in Gender Identity dimensions; significant and positive correlations found between gender typicality, intergroup bias, felt pressure, and contentedness, for both boys and girls from seventh and eighth grades (Kornienko, Santos, Martin & Granger, 2016). Furthermore, the data presented by the authors show correlations across Gender Identity dimensions for each grade and by gender; however, results reveal fairly low but significant associations and slightly similar patterns across the two grades (Kornienko, Santos, Martin & Granger, 2016).

Nevertheless, boys reported feeling more gender typical and reported more felt pressure for gender conformity from peers than girls, which corresponds with Bussey & Bandura (1992) finding, that boys experience stronger peer pressures to conform to gender norms than girls. However, girls reported higher intergroup bias than boys. Interestingly, there were no significant gender differences in contentedness at either gender; Results were similar for eighth grade, with the exception of contentedness, in which girls reported feeling more gender contentedness than boys.

Regarding to the article, the way the authors presented their data was a bit confusing and repeatedly use of words gender typicality, intergroup bias, felt pressure, and contentedness through the article, which might be boring for some readers.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

This article is not without disappointment as the authors been able to give out a vivid explanation into their research and also make references to some other written articles to justify or make reference of their claim.

firstly, due to the use of self-reported measure in this article in which it might get criticised for; the authors have justified their action by making reference to Egan and Perry (2001), which argued that gender identity must be self-reported as these are personal, internal summary judgement about one’s view of self and others.

Furthermore, this article has been able to suggest the implication of future research on related aspects of GI, such as centrality or salience, which may provide additional insights into how adolescents develop their identities and how they influence their peers during this developmental transition. In addition, Future research would benefit from use of diverse methodologies and conceptualizations of peer relationships (Gifford-Smith &Brownell, 2003) in identifying the mechanisms through which peers influence Gender identity. According to the article, assessing the influence of multiple friends has advantages of capturing peer group dynamics, however, if the close or best friends are the primary source of peer influence on Gender Identity, then dyadic, or actor-partner interdependence modelling may provide the appropriate analytical framework to study peer influence on Gender Identity (Kenny, Kashy, & Cook, 2006). Finally, using experimental paradigms would be beneficial in establishing causal mechanisms of peer influence. Although it might be challenging to design studies that manipulate potential peer responses to adolescents’ aspects of Gender Identity, it would be possible to develop scenarios in which adolescents indicate how they would respond to unfamiliar peers given different types of Gender Identity, similar to the study conducted by Jewell and Brown (2014)

The authors rightly conclude that the present study is the first to assess how peers influenced changes in adolescents’ Gender Identity. Despite some of the article limitations, the title offers valuable theoretical insights, interesting examples, a contribution to pedagogy and a starting point for students or researchers of child development with an interest in gender identity.

REFERENCES

  • Egan, S. K., & Perry, D. G. (2001). Gender identity: A multidimensional analysis with implications for psychosocial adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 37, 451–463. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.37.4 .451
  • Gifford-Smith, M. E., & Brownell, C. A. (2003). Childhood peer relationships: Social acceptance, friendships, and peer networks. Journal of School Psychology, 41, 235–284.Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0022- 4405(03)00048-7
  • Harris, J. R. (1995). Where is the child’s environment? A group socialization theory of development. Psychological Review, 102, 458–489. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.102.3.458
  • Jewell, J. A., & Brown, C. S. (2014). Relations among gender typicality, peer relations, and mental health during early adolescence. Social Development, 23, 137–156. Retrieved from  http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/sode.12042
  • Jewell, J. A., & Brown, C. S. (2014). Relations among gender typicality, peer relations, and mental health during early adolescence. Social Development, 23, 137–156. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/sode.12042
  • Kenny, D. A., Kashy, D. A., & Cook, W. L. (2006). Dyadic data analysis. Retrieved from https://www.scirp.org/reference/ReferencesPapers.aspx?ReferenceID=1342924
  • Kornienko, O., Santos, C. E., Martin, C. L., & Granger, K. L. (2016). Peer influence on gender identity development in adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 52(10), 1578–1592. retrieved from http://dx.doi.org.libaccess.hud.ac.uk/10.1037/dev0000200
  • Leaper, C., & Brown, C. S. (2008). Perceived experiences with sexism among adolescent girls. Child Development, 79, 685–704. 0009-3920/ 2008/7903-0013
  • Leaper, C., & Friedman, C. (2007). The socialization of gender. In J. Grusec & P. Hasting (Eds.), Handbook of socialization: Theory and research (pp. 561–587).
  • Ruble, D. N., Martin, C. L., & Berenbaum, S. A. (2006). Gender development. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Series Eds.) & N. Eisenberg (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol 3. Social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed., pp. 858–932).
  • Ruble, D. N., & Dweck, C. S. (1995). Self-perceptions, person conceptions, and their development. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology: Vol. 15. Social development (pp. 109–139).
  • Yunger, J. L., Carver, P. R., & Perry, D. G. (2004). Does gender identity influence children’s psychological wellbeing? Developmental Psychology, 40, 572–582. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.40.4.572
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