, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 399-412
Date: 14 Nov 2012

Adults’ Attitudes About Gender Nonconformity in Childhood

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Abstract

This study examined attitudes about outcomes associated with childhood gender nonconformity. Participants were 518 undergraduate students (337 female; 181 male) at a midwestern university in the U.S. Participants were presented with 1 of 10 vignettes describing a target child (male or female) who varied in gendered traits, interests, and behaviors (strongly masculine, moderately masculine, neutral, moderately feminine or strongly feminine). They completed a 50-item questionnaire including demographics, predicted outcomes for the target (e.g., masculinity and femininity in adulthood, pressure to change, psychological adjustment in childhood and adulthood, and sexual orientation), and the Attitudes toward Women Scale (Spence et al., 1973). Participants thought masculine and feminine targets would be masculine and feminine in adulthood, respectively: thus, stability was expected for both sexes. Feminine targets, boys or girls, were thought to be more likely to display internalizing (e.g., anxiety, depression) behaviors and masculine targets more likely to display externalizing (e.g., aggression, conduct disorders) behaviors in both childhood and adulthood. Gender-nonconforming children were expected to experience more pressure to change their behavior and less likely to be exclusively heterosexual adults, the latter particularly so for strongly feminine boys. There were few significant effects of participant sex and no effects of attitudes about gender on any of these measures. These findings add to the literature by demonstrating that degrees of masculinity and femininity as well as of gender nonconformity are expected to be associated with predictable outcomes in a linear fashion in both sexes, with only a few differences between expectations for boys and girls.