Peers and Gender Socialization

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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).