Academic journal article
By Yu, Lu; Winter, Sam
The Journal of Sex Research , Vol. 48, No. 4
From an early age, children gradually understand the gender stereotypes prescribed in their specific cultures and learn to conform to the given male and female gender roles (e.g., Huston, 1985). By middle childhood, although children's personality traits are not yet consolidated, boys and girls have established relatively stable gender-related behavior patterns (Beere, 1990; Stern & Karraker, 1989). Although most children display behaviors that are perceived as appropriate for their biological sex, some children, to varying degrees, exhibit behaviors considered to be more common for the other sex--namely, gender-atypical behaviors (GABs; Bailey & Zucker, 1995; Bates, Bentler, & Thompson, 1973; Golombok & Fivush, 1994). Researchers have found that childhood GAB carries important developmental implications in terms of childhood and adulthood atypical gender roles (Miller, 1987; Robert & Heroux, 2004), homosexual orientation (Bailey & Zucker, 1995; Strong, Singh, & Randall, 2000), and low levels of psychological adjustment (Aube & Koestner, 1992; Harry, 1983; Rosenberg, 2002; Wallien, van Goozen, & Cohen-Kettenis, 2007; Zucker & Bradley, 1995). These findings indicate the importance of GAB in children's development and the need to understand its characteristics and correlations with other psychological processes.
Despite widespread interest and a number of studies that have investigated children's gender-related behavior development in Western countries, especially in the United States (e.g., Maccoby, 1988; Signorella, Bigler, & Liben, 1993), there is a paucity of research concerning the characteristics of childhood GAB in Chinese populations. Therefore, the overall purposes of this study were to directly assess the prevalence of GAB in a sample of Chinese elementary school students and explore the associations between children's sex, age, only child status, and their expressions of GAB.
Prevalence and Sex Differences of GAB
By their very nature, most GABs--in particular, the extreme form thereof--are rarely exhibited by children across childhood (Achenbach, 1991; Henderson & Berenbaum, 1997; Serbin, Poulin-Dubois, Colburne, Sen, & Eichstedt, 2001). Although GABs are generally uncommon, researchers have also found that there is substantial variation in the amount and types of GABs that are exhibited by children both between and within the two sexes (Huston, 1985; Knafo, Iervolino, & Plomin, 2005; Sandberg & Meyer-Bahlburg, 1994). Several studies directly examined the prevalence of GAB with parent-reported questionnaires in population-based school-aged children (e.g., Meyer-Bahlburg, Sandberg, Dolezal, & Yager, 1994; Meyer-Bahlburg, Sandberg, Yager, Dolezal, & Ehrhardt, 1994; Van Beijsterveldt, Hudziak, & Boomsma, 2006). Consistently, it was reported that, although the majority of GABs occurred infrequently in children, both boys and girls displayed multiple GABs, and girls were more likely to display GAB than boys. For example, based on a sample of 687 children (6-10 years) in the United States, Sandberg, Meyer-Bahlburg, Ehrhardt, and Yager (1993) found that, although children of either sex overall displayed GAB at low frequencies and the number of coexistent GAB in each individual was small, there were still 22.8% of boys and 38.6% of girls who reported having ever exhibited ten or more different GABs. In Sandberg et al.'s (1993) study, GAB was operationally defined as the behaviors that were atypical for the participant's own sex but typical for a child of the opposite sex, as measured by the Child Behavior and Attitude Questionnaire (CBAQ; Meyer-Bahlburg, Sandberg, Yager, et al., 1994).
A number of theories have provided explanations of children's general tendency to adopt gender-congruent behaviors, as well as within-sex variations in children's GABs. From a cognitive-developmental perspective (Kohlberg, 1966), children's adoption of GAB is deemed a by-product of children's developed gender constancy--the ability to consistently categorize and identify with one gender. …