The Development of Gender Roles: Societal Influences
Marjorie S. Hardy
From the moment we are born, the world holds certain expectations of us based exclusively on one factor, our gender. As we proceed through life, the social forces around us work to mold us into the "acceptable" role we are to take in society, as boys and girls, as men and women. How far-reaching are these social factors? Can these forces be so influential as to affect our physical, emotional, and social adjustment in life? Can gender socialization and degree of conformity to gender roles in childhood predict sexual orientation in adulthood? In this chapter, these issues will be explored, with emphasis on the gender socialization of children in particular, by their parents, teachers, and peers and by the media, and the effects such socialization can have on adjustment throughout the life span.
Sex and gender are frequently used interchangeably to refer to one's assigned anatomical sex at birth. To avoid confusion with other meanings of the word sex, however, the word gender has gradually gained usage. Gender identity is the personal belief that one is either a male or a female, regardless of assigned gender. Thus, a male transsexual may have been assigned a male gender at birth, but his gender identity is female. Gender role refers to how a person behaves as a male or female--the relative masculine or feminine characteristics as perceived by self or by others. Masculinity and femininity are traditionally seen as