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