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Patterns of Gender Development Across Intersections of Age, Gender, and Ethnicity-Race

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Abstract

Two components of gender identity are gender similarity, how one’s self-concept relates to the major gender collectives (i.e., female, male), and felt pressure to conform to gender norms. The development of these components across ages and contexts has been understudied. The focus of this study was to examine variations in gender similarity and felt pressure across multiple intersecting contexts: developmental stage, gender, and ethnic-racial group. Six data sets were harmonized and means were compared across 2628 participants (51% girls, 49% boys) from four different developmental cohorts (childhood n = 678, early adolescence n = 1322, adolescence n = 415, and young adulthood n = 213) from diverse ethnic-racial backgrounds (45% White, 23% Latinx/Hispanic, 11% Black/African-American, 7% Asian-American, 5% American Indian, and 5% Multiracial). Results revealed nuanced patterns: Gender intensification was supported in early adolescence, primarily for boys. Young adult men reported lower levels of pressure and gender typicality than younger boys, but young adult women’s levels were generally not different than younger girls. Surprisingly, young adult women’s levels of own-gender similarity and pressure from parents were higher than adolescent girls. Expectations of gender differences in gender typicality and felt pressure were supported for all ages except young adults, with higher levels for boys. Finally, there were more similarities than differences across ethnic-racial groups, though when there were differences, minoritized participants reported heightened gender typicality and pressure (largely accounted for by higher scores for Black and Latinx participants and lower scores for White and Multiracial participants). These results add to what is understood about contextually dependent gender development.

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Notes

  1. All referred work was conducted in the US unless otherwise noted.

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Funding

We use data that was funded by the T. Denny Sanford Foundation.

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Correspondence to Matthew G. Nielson.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All participants and their parents received a copy of their informed consent and provided consent.

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For all samples, all procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration. Approval obtained from the study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Arizona State University and with the approval of the local school boards involved.

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The participants of this study did not give written consent for their data to be shared publicly, so due to the sensitive nature of the research supporting data are not available.

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Nielson, M.G., Martin, C.L., England, D.E. et al. Patterns of Gender Development Across Intersections of Age, Gender, and Ethnicity-Race. Arch Sex Behav 53, 1793–1812 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-024-02824-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-024-02824-6

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