Friday, July 18, 2008

Gender Policing Hurts Kids Abbreviated

I've been thinking about NPR's piece "Two Families Grapple with Sons' Gender Preferences," which aired weeks ago, and about how gender-policing hurts all kids. So, I wasn't surprised to stumble across some research published in the journal Sex Roles indicating that parents who over-correct "... gender atypical behavior (GAB) i.e. behavior traditionally considered more typical for children of the opposite sex" put their kids at greater risk of developing adverse adult psychiatric symptoms:
Negative parenting style was associated with psychiatric symptoms. Structural equation modeling showed that parenting style significantly moderated the association between childhood GAB and adult psychiatric symptoms with positive parenting reducing the association and negative parenting sustaining it.
So, it isn't being different that put kids at risk, it's being punished for being different.

I wrote more about this... a lot more... over at Feministe. But for those of you who don't have a leisurely Friday morning, I'll just skip-ahead to the end:

Knowing that gender policing is potentially dangerous for kids, how do we let our children explore their gender identities in their own ways - despite the messages all around them implying that anything but strict adherence to their prescribed gender roles is bad, or even unsafe?


Unknown said...

I don't think these parents would be so concerned about boys trying on mommy's shoes if it wasn't for the 'gay' factor. If the society wasn't so homophobic, they wouldn't make a mountain out of a molehill.

sally said...

I think it's homophobia combined with just overall rejection of boys or men doing feminine things. Girls who play sports are seen as tomboys, not necessarily lesbians.

Anonymous said...

That's right, it's not bad for a women to be a bit masculine, but it is bad for a man to be feminine. We need to allow our boys to be effeminate without viewing it as negative.