Developmental Changes in the Link Between Gender Typicality and Peer Victimization and Exclusion

Abstract

The present study takes a broad and nuanced view of gender typicality in normative populations and suggests that this aspect of children’s gender identity might be a fundamental aspect of vulnerability to peer maltreatment. Using a cross-sectional sample from the Southwestern United States, developmental differences were examined in the relations between kindergarten (n = 210, M age = 5.81, 52 % female), second (n = 205, M age = 7.62, 50 % female), and fourth (n = 205, M age = 9.56, 44 % female) grade students’ self-reported similarity to own- and other-gender peers and teacher-reported peer victimization and exclusion. Parents’ reports of children’s own- and other-gender friendships were also examined to test whether friendships would attenuate this relation. We hypothesized (a) lower gender typicality would be associated with higher victimization/exclusion for 2nd and 4th grade children and (b) friendships with own- and other-gender peers, but especially own-gender peers, would moderate the typicality and victimization/exclusion relation, acting as a buffer against victimization/exclusion. Supporting our hypotheses, results indicated developmental differences in the link between gender typicality and victimization/exclusion with a more consistent relation in 2nd and 4th grades. For girls, having other-gender friends moderated the negative relation of other-gender similarity and victimization/exclusion. Own-gender friendships were protective overall for both genders, and other-gender friendships were protective for 4th graders. Our study suggests that gender-related intolerance is a central issue to peer maltreatment and affects more than just those who exhibit the most extreme cases of gender nonconformity and that friendships can provide a buffer against victimization/exclusion.

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Acknowledgments

The research was supported by in part by funds from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics as part of the Lives of Girls and Boys Research Enterprise. Additional support was provided for Naomi Andrews from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Zosuls, K.M., Andrews, N.C.Z., Martin, C.L. et al. Developmental Changes in the Link Between Gender Typicality and Peer Victimization and Exclusion. Sex Roles 75, 243–256 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0608-z

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Keywords

  • Gender identity
  • Peer victimization
  • Gender typicality
  • Friendships
  • Child development