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10 Reasons Why Gender Identity Is An Issue In Childhood

HDFS 301 Spring 2015: This buzzfeed article will give 10 reasons why gender identity has become an issue in childhood. Majority of the reasons are specifically for factors that stereotype gender roles, behaviors, and beliefs. Not all factors can be negative influencers for children on gender identity, so keep that in mind.

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1. Parents

Parents are one of the main influencers for children and their beliefs on their gender identity, roles, or stereotyped behaviors. From the start their child is born, parents have a perceived belief about how their son or daughter should act and what is expected from them in terms of their sex. "Within 24 hours after birth, parents already perceive male and female newborns differently...Parents more often encourage their young sons to be physically active and assertive and their daughters to seek help and physical closeness (Berk, 261)."

2. Social Learning Theory

According to the social learning theory, children imitate previous behaviors or actions from past observations and experiences. During Albert Bandura's (psychologist) studies, he concluded that children learn to model their parents during their play interactions and that boys and girls learn to behave differently because of what was shown to them. In 1999, Bandura collaborated with Kay Bussey, who is a child psychology professor at Macquarie University, on a study that asked three to four year olds to evaluate gender typed behaviors of peers from videotapes that were shown. The results presented that at such a young age, the participants showed approval or disapproval of certain gender typed behaviors (Giordano, 2013, p. 38) (Berk, 18).

3. Teachers

Besides parents, teachers can also be a huge influencer on a child's belief of their gender identity, roles, or stereotyped behaviors. Majority of classrooms in early childhood have split gender based activities. Also, teachers tend to emphasize certain gender behaviors such as girls being quiet and expecting boys to be louder. For example, a teacher may say "Boys, I wish you'd quiet down like the girls (Berk, 394)."

4. Outside Influencers...Celebrities


Celebrities each and every day influence society and more often parents and their children if they are aware their actions. Today, many celebrity families are accepting of their children exploring or even identifying with their opposite sex. For example, Angelina Jolie has been accepting of her daughter Shiloh's choice to wear boy gendered clothes and wanting to be called John. Her daughter is only eight but is a huge influencer on the way children view gender identity and wanting to have that choice of being the opposite sex (Sanghani, 2014).

5. Peers

The peers that children spend their time can have an impact on the way they associate certain activities and behavior with a specific gender. Often, as young as 3 years old peers can positively reinforce each other on gender typed activities and behaviors. If a peer is participating in the opposite gender typed activity, they are criticized by their peers and sometimes even ignored (Berk, 394).

6. Biology

Studies have shown that sex hormones in boys and girl play an impact in their behaviors, emotions, and actions. Because of this they choose to play with others who have the same behaviors, emotions, and actions as they do. These sex hormones (that are specific for either male or female) can also be reverse in some cases, which cause either a male or female to have less of their specific sex hormones and more of the opposite sex's sex hormones (Berk, 391).

7. Toys

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Toys that are given to children at a young age are often given based on their gender. Toy stores have different aisles that are centered toward different genders (mostly either girl or boy not neutral). Girl gendered aisles are usually bright colored or revolved around female stereotypical activities (housework, being a mom, cooking, beauty, etc.) whereas boy gendered aisles are usually dark colored and revolved around male stereotypical activities (aggressive behavior such as wrestling or shooting, driving trucks, construction, etc.) Children who see these such behaviors from toys, model them believing this is what their gender should be doing (Matter, 2012).

8. Culture


Different cultures (not just an ethnicity's culture) have an impact on what are acceptable gender typed activities and behaviors. As a result of such strict cultured expectations of each gender, children grow up with these stereotypical roles and behaviors (Berk, 394) (Hetherington, Child Psychology: A Contemporary Viewpoint 5/e).

9. Television


It has been researched that children who are in preschool spend an average of 30 hours a week watching television. Television contains numerous gender stereotyped behaviors, emotions, activities, and roles through shows and commercials. Children who spend many hours watching television receive certain expectations of genders and then those expectations are reinforced from other factors such as parents and teachers (Witt, 2000) (Berk, 395).

10. Gender Dysphoria


In recent years, there has been a rise in young children being diagnosed with gender dysphoria. According to Zucker and Bradley's book Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents (1995, p. 11), young children who are diagnosed with gender identity disorder display a variety of behaviors that relate to a specific sex and this signals that there is strong psychological identification with the opposite sex. Although, there has been a rise studies have shown that children who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria do not have the same symptoms when they become adolescents (Spiegel, 2008).

Additional Useful Resources

Children with Gender Identity Disorder: A Clinical, Ethical, and Legal Analysis by Simona Giordano (2013)

Gender Identity Disorder and Pscyhosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents by Kenneth J. Zucker and Susan J. Bradley (1995)

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