Gender-Typed Behaviors are Linked to Depressive Symptoms, Low Self-Esteem, and Poor Friendship Quality in Boys

Gender-typed behaviors (GT) and stereotypes are common. For example, boys play with automobiles and girls play with dulls, and these behaviors are related to boy and girl identities, respectively.

GT behaviors are more common in adolescence compared to other ages, and the peer pressure to engage in GT behaviors are at its peak in adolescence.

Interestingly enough, these behaviors also seem to be negatively associated with psychological well-being and emotional adjustment, which a new study found out.

Gupta and colleagues (2003) conducted a 3-year longitudinal cross-cultural study of Chinese and American boys of middle school age. They examined how specific aspects of gender-typed behaviors were associated with psychological well-being and emotional adjustment.

They found no differences in the adherence to gender-typed behaviors across cultures, but they did find the American boys to favour emotional stoicism (= you can’t show emotions) more than Chinese boys in friendships.

The authors also found that Chinese and American boys who engaged in more GT behaviors had higher depressive symptoms, lower self-esteem, and poorer friendship quality.

This association is probably linked to the fact that GT behaviors favour emotional stoicism, autonomy, and physically toughness in friendships.

Emotional stoicism led to lower quality friendships and poorer mental health in the American boys. Emotional stoicism seems to be more prevailing in American than in Chinese culture.

It seems that being a stereotypical masculine boy does have a downside. The peer pressure to be that boy is especially high in adolescence, and therefore this period of time is associated with poorer mental health, worse emotional adjustment, lower quality friendships, and lower self-esteem.

Perhaps, boys who have lower self-esteem engage in more GT behaviors. Anyway, this study challenges the assumption about GT behaviors that they are linked to positive adjustment, and it concludes that these GT behaviors are important in adolescence across cultures.

At last, the study emphasizes the similarities between cultures when it comes to GT behaviors.

Image: CircaSassy
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  • I wonder if we could do a study on the effect of people doing studies. Do the studies actually have any real power to change things or do things just change when absolutely-need-to-because-there-is-no-other-option? Humans appear to be evolving slower & getting dumber because of the sheer amount of information flying around. There is so much to pick apart. An infinite amount of ‘things,’ actually. Never been a fan of studies, because studies reflect strong organizational tendencies of analytical types.

    Personally, I totally agree with the findings in this study, but the study for me was unnecessary. There are quite a few people who can just ‘read’ into things without a study. But now where is the validation, right? Right…

    It appears that we’re still on the long journey of discover ourselves so we can eventually forget all about it, and reconnect at the core – and just be. Period. Even time – takes time…

    • Hi Steven,
      Great input!
      I think, just like medical science, psychological science needs to document things we already know or have an idea about. Most studies, I would say, have real power to change things, at least over time.
      We need to be sure (in fact, we often operate with 95% confidence intervals) that an effect is reliable and valid before it can be implemented into our daily lives. If you were seeing your doctor, you would like him to be at least 95% certain of his methods’ effectiveness, because failing could have fatal consequences.
      You are right that the jungle of information sometimes seems too much or even unnecessary, but it’s because most research builds upon someone else’s research or theories. As I said, the importance lies in the verification or documentation of effects.
      In fact, researchers need funding and financial support to conduct their research, so they need a really good reason for doing it. I think, most, if not all, studies try to change the world to the better.
      I think, what you refer to, is that it’s difficult for us as consumers of research to find our ways through the jungle. I am sure researchers or science journalists could help us more than they do know so that WE don’t need to pick as much apart. I am sure you’ve already figured it out: I believe research is a really important and necessary building stone of our societies.
      Thanks for your comment,
      Simon