Peers and Gender Socialization
Peers help children learn prevailing gender-role stereotypes. as well as gender-appropriate and gender inappropriate behavior Hubbard and Southwestern, 1998). During the preschool years. same-sex peers have a powerful effect on how children see heir.gender roles Tobacco and Jacklyn. 1987);children are more socially acceptable to their peers when they condor~l to implicit societal norms governing the “appropriate” ways that girls and boys should act in social situations and what prohibitions xis in such cases (Martin, 1989). Male peer groups place more pressure on boys to do “masculine” things than female peer groups lace on girls to do “feminine” things. For example, girls wear jeans and other “boy” clothes. play soccer and softball, and engage n other activities traditionally associated with males. By contrast. if a boy wears a dress, plays hopscotch with girls, and engages n other activities associated with being female, he will be ridiculed by his peers. This distinction between the relative value of boys’ and girls’ behaviors strengthens the cultural message that masculine activities and behavior are more important and re acceptable (Wood, 1999)
During adolescence, peers are often stronger and more effective agents of gender socialization than adults (Hubbard and bushmaster, 1998). Peers are thought to be especially important in boys’ development of gender identity (Tobacco and Jacklyn, 987). Male bonding that occurs during adolescence is believed to reinforce masculine identity (Gangling, 1992) and to encourage gender-stereotypical attitudes and behavior (Huston, 1985; Martin, 1989). For example, male peers have a tendency to ridicule and bully others about their appearance, size, and weight. Alta Walker painfully recalls walking down the halls at school ..when boys would flatten themselves against the lock-
res and cry, “Wide load!” At lunchtime, the boys made production of watching her eat lunch and frequently made sounds like runts or moos (Kola ta, 1993). Because peer acceptance is extremely important for both males and females during their first two evades, such actions can have very harmful consequences for the victims
As young adults, men and women still receive many gender-related messages from peers. Among college students, for example, ere groups are organized largely around gender relations and play an important role in career choices and the establishment of Vermonter, intimate relationships (Holland and Eisenhart, 1990). In a study of women college students at two universities (one primarily white, the other predominantly African American), anthropologists Dorothy C. Holland and Margaret A. Eisenhart 1990) found that the peer system propelled women into a world of romance in which their attractiveness to men counted most lthough peers did not initially influence the women’s choices of majors and careers, they did influence whether the women continued to pursue their original goals, changed their course of action, or were “derailed” (Holland and Eisenhart, 1981, 1990).