The behavior of individuals as males or females, the types of roles they assume, and their personality characteristics, may be just as important as a person's biological framework. In order to differentiate between biological features one may take into consideration behaviors and social roles to establish "gender. " Sex and gender are often intertwined, and certain social expectations can be attributed to one’s biological sex. The sex of a newborn sets the agenda for a whole array of developmental experiences that will influence the person throughout his or her life.
Overall, the sex differences between boys and girls in the first year of life are minimal. Boys may be a bit more active or fussier and girls more physically mature and less prone to physical problems, but that may be the extent of the significant differences. Mothers have a tendency to ignore more of their son's emotional outbursts in comparison to their daughters' outbursts. Boys may be rough-housed or played with in a more aggressive manor as well. This goes in line with stereotyping males as more hardy or tough and girls as gentle and soft. A parent can influence their child into these gender roles by the way they discipline.
They may be harder on a boy than a girl for the exact same behavior. "Children see what their parents do. Children learn when they try to imitate their parents (Putnam, Myers-Walis; Love, p. 1). " For example, a boy may grow up seeing his father fix things around the house and his mother being the one who always cooks dinner. Parents may also assign specific chores to the children according to sex, thus reinforcing gender roles in their development. Another way a parent influences gender development is by what they say to their children. Making comments about girls do this or boys do that supports the gender stereotypes.
Gender roles development is crucial around ages 2-6 years when children are becoming aware of their gender, where play styles and behaviors begin to crystallize around that core identify of "I am a girl" or "I am a boy. " Typically males have been thought to be more aggressive than males; however, in a study reported by the American Psychological Association, Inc. , reveals "our interpretation of these results emphasizes that aggression sex difference are a function of perceived consequences of aggression that are learned as aspects of gender roles and other social roles (Eagly; Steffen, 1986). How a parent teaches the child and role models aggression, play, chores, and toys may have more of a factor of gender roles than being biologically male or female. The areas of gender differences include brain development where there are fewer connections between hemispheres, right brain reliance on space/movement, single focus, sexual response, and emotional response. Males hear less at higher decibels then females and tend to hear better in one ear than the other.
Testosterone levels are different as well including a correlation between the amount of testosterone and higher energy and aggression, sex drive, and higher amounts throughout the teenaged years. "Male babies, on average, are born slightly longer and heavier than female babies. Newborn girls, on the other hand, have slightly more mature skeletons and are a bit more responsive to touch (Craig; Dunn, 2010, p. 188). " By age 2 ? , most children can readily distinguish between male and female, and accurately answer the question of whether they are a boy or a girl. Gender-role stereotypes are fixed ideas about appropriate male and female behavior (Craig; Dunn, 2010, p. 189). " Distinguishing between feminine and masculine appears to be shared in almost every culture, although cultures may differ in their definitions of what masculinity and femininity entail. Children's concepts of gender depend in part on the child's cognitive development. A 3-year-old boy might put on a dress and now believe he has turned into a girl, whereas a 5-year-old boy now may understand that his sex is not going to change, which is referred to as gender constancy (Craig; Dunn, 2010, p. 89). Developing gender identity is partly a result of models and rewards. Again, what a child sees and hears growing up about male and female appropriateness will shape their gender personality and roles for the future. In William Pollack's book Real Boys, he talks about boys in America being in crisis and teen-aged girls losing their voice, mostly as a result of society's stereotypes about girls and boys. Pollack talks about boys and men wearing masks of masculinity to hide their true inner feelings.
Boys are being taught, at a young age, to be tough, act like a man, and if you display feelings you are considered weak or other assorted names given to men who show vulnerability. These stereotypes are limiting and are hindering the development of children. As a society, we push boys into grown-up roles faster than their female counterparts. Moms and dads on the whole begin pushing their boys away by less hugs and kisses at an earlier age than girls (Pollack, 1999). In a study done on drawings of grade-school aged children, there were vast differences in the subject matter the participants drew.
Boys' drawings contained a profusion of violence, of villainy, and of vehicles; girls' drawings were full of benign animals, bugs and flowers. In the drawings, boys seem more influenced at this age by the media in drawings of superheroes, whereas the girls depicted more domestic-type scenes (McClure-Vollrath, 2006). During the feminist movement, there was a theme that men were "the problem" and women were "the oppressed. " By characterizing gender this way, development can fail to address effectively the issues of equity and empowerment that are crucial in bringing about positive change.
Gender bias's and roles are ultimately power relations (Cornwall, 1997, p. 8). Through the feminist movement, many people changed their ways of thinking surrounding men and women, but there is still room for re-thinking when it comes to boys. Boys get mixed messages, "to be manly but empathetic, cool but open, strong yet vulnerable. " Society has come a long way in liberating girls and women from the gender straightjacket. There is still room for improvement to break down the roles our boys are forced into by letting them own their feelings and communicating with them in a way that allows them to express their fears and distress.
Gender identity normally develops in children by about age 3, when they most often are able to identify themselves as boys or girls. People with gender identity disorder or "gender dysphoria" can remember as early as age 5 as having feelings of being born in the wrong body or wanting to be the opposite of their biological bodies reveal. "Children who deviate from the socially prescribed behavioral norms for boy or girl children are quickly pushed back in line by parental figures. Behaviors, mannerisms, and play that appears to be gender nonconforming to a parent may feel perfectly normal to the child (Mallon; DeCrescenzo, 2006). Western society continues to reward parents for conforming their children into their gender roles by buying Barbie's for girls and dump trucks for boys, even if they have asked for something different. Sexual orientation is different from, and not determined by, one's gender identity. In most cases, the onset of gender identity disorder can be traced back to childhood. In an interview with a 46-year-old male who struggled with gender dysphoria all of his life, he reports as early as 5-years-old he was dressing up in women's clothing and wished he did not have a penis.
After years of therapy and insight into his disorder, he has been able to attribute his confusion to some things that were said in his home at an early age. He remembers his mother saying that she was convinced when he was in her womb that he was a girl, and she would often tell him that he should have been a girl. He remembers people telling him how "pretty" he was and that he would have made a beautiful girl. All of these things contributed to his confusion about his gender at a very young age. He never felt "attached" to his mother, and later he would find out that his mother would just let him lie in his crib and cry as an infant.
He reported that his mother had his 1-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister to look after, and she was too busy to take care of a fussy baby. He said he spent most of his life trying to establish masculinity as society and family would see it, so that nobody would know the terror and confusion he lived with on a daily basis. Eventually, he would decide that his only way out would be suicide, he thought then the pain would finally end. God did not allow him to take his life and instead he found his value in Christ and was set free from his pain and found acceptance of who he was in Christ.
He started going to therapy and completely turning his life around, living as a man, and finally finding gender acceptance rather than dysphoria (Robbins, 2011). Roles of home environment, peers, and teachers in the acquisition of gender difference in behavior and attitudes play a role in gender socialization (Lau, 1996). Gender role socialization according to a study done cross-culturally found that it could be narrowly defined by the type of sex-typed behaviors such as play activities and toys.
In summary, gender identity is a learned behavior that starts at a very young age and can hinder or enhance a child's development. Gender plays a role in how a person defines themselves and grows as a person depending on their safety and security in being male or female and what that means to them and what they are taught at a young age. Bottom line is that men and women are different, and as a society and as parents being a boy or girl does not meet we have to fit into a certain box, as people are unique in of themselves, and that is what we can enhance and nurture to develop.