Gender Plays Significant Role in Most Learners' Sense of Self (page 2)
As young children become increasingly aware of the typical characteristics and behaviors of boys, girls, men, and women, they begin to pull their knowledge together into self-constructed understandings, or gender schemas, of “what males are like” and “what females are like.” These gender schemas, in turn, become part of their sense of self and provide guidance for how they themselves should behave—how they should dress, what toys they should play with, what interests and academic subject areas they should pursue, and so on (Bem, 1981; Leaper & Friedman, 2007; C. L. Martin & Ruble, 2004; Weisgram, Bigler, & Liben, 2007).
Because gender schemas are self-constructed, their contents may vary considerably from one individual to another (Crouter, Whiteman, McHale, & Osgood, 2007; Liben & Bigler, 2002). In adolescence, for example, some girls incorporate into their “female” schema the unrealistic standards for beauty presented in popular media (films, fashion magazines, etc.). As they compare themselves to these standards, they almost invariably come up short and so their self-assessments of their physical attractiveness decline.Stice, 2003. In an effort to achieve the super-thin body they believe to be ideal, they may fall victim to eating disorders (Attie, Brooks-Gunn, & Petersen, 1990; Weichold, Silbereisen, & Schmitt-Rodermund, 2003). Likewise, some teenage boys go out of their way to meet self-constructed “macho” standards for male behavior by putting on a tough-guy act at school and bragging (perhaps accurately, but more often not) about their many sexual conquests (Pollack, 2006; K. M. Williams, 2001a).
Some researchers find gender differences in overall self-esteem in adolescence, with boys rating themselves more highly than girls. This gender difference appears to be partly due to boys’ tendency to overestimate their abilities and possibly also to girls’ tendency to underestimate theirs (Bornholt, Goodnow, & Cooney, 1994; D. A. Cole et al., 1999; Harter, 1999; Pajares, 2005; Pajares & Valiante, 1999). Most adolescent boys’ and girls’ self-perceptions tend to be consistent with stereotypes about what males and females are “good at.” Even when actual ability levels are the same, on average boys rate themselves more highly in mathematics and sports, whereas girls rate themselves more highly in reading and literature (D. A. Cole et al., 2001; Harter, 1999; Herbert & Stipek, 2005; Wigfield et al., 2006). On average, too, adolescent boys rate their physical appearance more positively than girls do (D. A. Cole et al., 2001; Harter, 1999; R. M. Ryan & Kuczkowski, 1994; Stice, 2003).
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