Gender Role Influences on Turkish Adolescents' Self-Identity

By Yildirim, Ali | Adolescence, Spring 1997 | Go to article overview

Gender Role Influences on Turkish Adolescents' Self-Identity


Yildirim, Ali, Adolescence


INTRODUCTION

This is one of a series of cross-cultural studies comprising the International Self-Identity Research Project (ISIRT) designed to investigate adolescents' self-identity process in a variety of cultures. Specifically, the purpose of this paper was to examine the role of gender in the value systems of Turkish adolescents through use of a questionnaire. Although boys and girls share many common values, it was expected that they go through different self-validation processes as a result of culturally defined gender role attitudes and practices. While several studies have been conducted on gender role differences in the Turkish population, to this researcher's knowledge, there have been no studies of gender role influences on adolescent self-identity.

In Turkish society, where women's social status is inferior to that of men, the segregation of the sexes strongly reinforces traditional gender role expectations among Turkish adolescents. Especially in rural areas, lack of sharing between males and females and same-sex friendship contribute to the separation of the sexes. In terms of their behaviors and roles, girls are, by and large, subject to stricter social control. While girls spend most of their spare time in their home environment, boys do so outside with peers. This situation continues into adulthood where the wife is of lower status than the husband. The male usually makes the decisions and has a low level of communication with his spouse (Kagitcibasi, 1977; 1987a).

Turkish girls have a strong identification with their mothers and the mothers' traditional gender role attitudes (Kagitcibasi, 1987a). They are more likely to obtain a low level of educational achievement, particularly in rural areas where traditional gender roles are adhered to more strongly (Erkut, 1987). Girls are generally less active and less likely to pursue higher education; boys appear to be less traditional in their gender role attitudes.

Studies have indicated that even a university education did not fundamentally change women's traditional perceptions of gender roles. In one study (Kandiyoti, 1987), women who had graduated from university were asked which attributes they considered a "successful" women should possess. Most responded, "a good spouse and mother," indicating a traditional female role perception. In addition, Kandiyoti noted that perceptions of female roles have also remained largely unchanged in spite of the increasing participation of women in education and in the labor market.

This study attempted to examine significant sources of self-identity for boys and girls. There is a general concern about the lack of interest of young females in education, in participation in the work force, and in sports. Therefore, it is important to understand the differences and similarities in male and female adolescents' self-validation processes in order to communicate with them and respond effectively to their needs. Understanding gender differences in the value systems of adolescents may also help us understand the social and family structure of Turkish society.

METHOD

Participants

A total of 154 male and 119 female public high school students were asked to complete a questionnaire. The students are mostly from lower-middle and middle-level socioeconomic backgrounds. The sample included students from cities (Ankara, Istanbul, and Eskisehir - 69%) and rural areas (south and southeastern regions - 31%). Nearly 94% of the students surveyed were in the 14-17 year age range. The average age was 15.28 years. Sixty percent were at the 9th grade level, close to 31% were at the 10th grade and 9% were at the 11th grade (the last year of high school). Only 5% had a part-time job. Among the fathers, 49% had only an elementary school education, 17% had completed middle school, 19% were high school graduates, and 12% had a university education; 68% had a blue-collar job, 28% had a middle-level white-collar job, only 4% had an upper-middle or upper-white-collar job.

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