Forcing Kids To Stick To Gender Roles Can Actually Be Harmful To Their Health

Originally posted at Think Progress

Raising children in societies that adhere to rigid gender roles, with fixed ideas about what should be considered “masculine” and “feminine,” can actually be detrimental to their physical and mental health, according to a study that observed 14-year-olds’ interactions over a three month period.

“Usually we think of gender as natural and biological, but it’s not… We actually construct it in ways that have problematic and largely unacknowledged health risks,” lead researcher Maria do Mar Pereira, the deputy director for the University of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, explained in an interview with ThinkProgress.

Pereira drew her conclusions after being embedded in a class of teenagers in Lisbon, Portugal. The kids in the study knew they were being observed by Pereira — who participated in all aspects of their everyday lives, including attending classes, eating lunch in the cafeteria, playing on the playground, and joining them on trips to the mall after school — but they didn’t know her specific area of focus. In addition to her one-on-one interviews with each teen, her observations allowed her to track the ways they interacted with their ideas about masculinity and femininity.

Pereira observed both boys and girls regulating their behavior in potentially harmful ways in order to adhere to gender norms.

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