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Crossover, Degendering, or…? A Multidimensional Approach to Life-Span Gender Development

Abstract

Inspired by Sandra Bem and subsequent theorists, we examine gender as a multidimensional construct that differs across adulthood to test claims made by two different theories of life-span gender development—that men and women cross over and become more like the other gender with age, and that aging involves degendering or viewing gender as a less central aspect of the self. Self-report survey data from a U.S. sample of men and women recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (25–89 years, M age = 47.38, SD = 14.05) were used to investigate the extent to which stereotypically masculine traits; stereotypically feminine traits; androgyny; gender identification (i.e., identifying with one’s gender group and viewing this as a positive part of the self); and gender typicality (i.e., viewing oneself as a typical member of one’s gender group) differ between younger (i.e., under age 40), middle-aged (i.e., ages 40–59), and older men and women (i.e., age 60 and older) and by marital status. Results indicate that gender differences in stereotypically masculine and feminine personality traits exist, and that marital status moderates age and gender differences in traits. Among older men, those who are married are more likely to endorse stereotypically masculine traits, but also have higher androgyny scores than unmarried men. With age, both men and women perceive themselves as more typical examples of their gender group. Results are discussed as providing limited support for crossover theory, but not degendering.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Department of Psychology and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University for funding this project.

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Correspondence to Philip Lemaster.

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This human-subjects research was reviewed and approved by the West Virginia University Instiutional Review Board. All participants were informed of the purpose, benefits, and risks of the study in advance and consented to participate.

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Lemaster, P., Delaney, R. & Strough, J. Crossover, Degendering, or…? A Multidimensional Approach to Life-Span Gender Development. Sex Roles 76, 669–681 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0563-0

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Keywords

  • Gender development
  • Life span
  • Crossover
  • Degendering
  • Masculinity
  • Androgyny
  • Gender typicality