All over the world, there are gender equality issues that are changing a child’s state of mind. Expectations are put on kids at such a young age. Think about the last time you went to a baby shower. You would get a pink outfit for a girl or blue for a boy.
Research has found that gender-specific expectations are causing damage to kids that affect them as adults. The pressure of being all girl or all boy in character is leading to drug abuse and mood disorders later on in life.
Boys are being taught to be independent and mentally strong. Girls are taught to become the nurturer and also to be vulnerable. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded that stereotypes around the world are the same.
The WHO and Global Early Adolescent Study based at Johns Hopkins University found that even the most undeveloped countries held the same ideals for boys and girls.
Gender Roles Begin at Home
It is not biology that will define how secure a person is as an adult. Psychiatrists say that biology is a factor for addiction for example but more importantly it is the upbringing and environment.
Family, friends and society influence how boys and girls see themselves in the world. Expectations on kids at a young age mold them, sometimes creating mental health issues if a child doesn’t feel they conform to the standard.
This myth of girls being weak and boys being strong is an aggressive approach. This perception has played out over 15 countries and five continents as per the study.
These beliefs that girls and boys adopt are deeply rooted because they begin at home. They are learned before school and then reinforced in social connections. Guardians, siblings, relatives, the church, sport coaches, and classmates all play a hand in the gender expectations.
How Girls Suffer in the Gender Equality Situation
Boys are taught to be aggressors when it comes to romantic or sexual relationships. These social norms are ingrained during early adolescence.
The effect? A higher number of girls dropping out of school to get away from this societal norm where they’re chased like prey. Even if they avoid problems in school, there are older men who have been brought up with the same belief system. There is no real escape.
Girls suffer from physical and sexual violence. They are subjected to child marriage in some countries, early pregnancy, and contract HIV and other STI’s.
The Negative Effect Gender Roles Play on Boys
Boys have also been negatively affected by gender roles. They have to deal with more violence, often being forced to fight even if it’s not in their character to do so. They also deal with pressure of not conforming to this masculine role. There are some boys that are sensitive and gentle beings. This causes them to be bullied more.
Boys will have negative consequences for their silent pain. For boys that are less masculine, they feel as though they have to hide their true selves.
This leads to alcohol addiction, smoking cigarettes and the engagement of interpersonal violence. They are angry inside so they numb it or lash out in violence unnecessarily.
It Begins at Ten: How Gender Expectations Shape Early Adolescence around the World
This is the name of the study that determined gender equality is an issue all over the world. Deborah Best is a psychology professor studying gender stereotypes who has found the determination of gender roles begins at five years old.
Girls begin to understand that they shouldn’t try to take the leadership roles. Boys receive the message that they need to be more aggressive.
Is Sex Education Starting Too Late?
The majority of sex ed classes start in high school. Studies are showing that regardless of where you live, talking about relationships and sexuality should start much earlier. It is believed this can negate the negative impact on gender roles before it becomes problematic.
By problematic, it’s in terms of males thinking they need to hunt females in a way that causes her discomfort. It’s also about giving boys the freedom to be nurturing or sensitive or non-dominant. Giving them the choice to be just who they were born to be. Boys in particular have a lot of pressure to be a specific way which could explain why more men become addicted to substances than women.
The Social Norms that Turn Children into Troubled Adults
These learned experiences kids have mold the adults they later become. The effect is bigger problems in life. The gender wage gap along with interpersonal violence is the widespread effect. What adults are willing to put up with based on their perceived worth is the personal effect.
Parents should be educated on the impact of how they treat and guide children so they can raise kids in a way that gives them freedom and choice. Kristin Mmari is a professor and a leader in the qualitative research at the Global Early Adolescent Study.
This is what she has to say about health risks like addiction and mood disorders that are caused by gender role expectations for kids,
“Adolescent health risks are shaped by behaviors rooted in gender roles that can be well established in kids by the time they are 10 or 11 years old,” she said. “Yet we see billions of dollars around the world invested in adolescent health programs that don’t kick in until they are 15 and by then it’s probably too late to make a big difference.”
The Pressure of Fitting In
It is society that imprints impressions on what it is to be a boy or to be a girl. These rigid expectations at a young age can cause kids to think there is something wrong with them. Humans at the deepest level were tribal. For survival, we dwelled together. We become anxious and afraid if we don’t feel as though we fit in.
The fear of isolation and loneliness of not fitting in is terrifying. So kids that don’t fit into the mold will often wear a mask and pretend to be someone they’re not. So once the mask is on, it can be quite a numbing experience.
Studies have shown that children suffering from adverse situations during their youth are more likely to show an increase of stress throughout the body. Furthermore, studies have shown that many people with anxiety disorders are also more likely to become addicted to substances.