The Gender Role perceptions of adolescent girls

McDonald, Maureen (1991) The Gender Role perceptions of adolescent girls. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The present study is an investigation of the gender role perceptions of girls aged 10 - 15 years. The study aimed to assess any changes in these perceptions that might occur around adolescence, in particular whether interest becomes more focussed upon feminine concerns at puberty (the gender intensification hypothesis) and whether this might be related to girls' educational and leisure choices. The study is semilongitudinal with data collected over two years. For the purposes of cross-sectional analysis the participants were divided into three age groups: 10-11 years; 12-13 years; and 14-15 years. Two methods of data collection were employed: interviews' and repertory grids. The interviews were used to collect cross-sectional data pertaining to participants' perceptions of academic, occupational, sports and leisure choices. The repertory grids were used to collect both cross-sectional and longitudinal data and to access participants' personal gender perceptions within the educational context.

The main findings to emerge from the interviews were that the gender stereotyping of preferences, choices and activities was less evident than expected, especially for school subject preferences and career aspirations. Although there was little evidence to support the gender intensification hypothesis, age-related changes in perceptions did occur showing a decline with age in interest for sporting activities and liking for maths.

Results from the repertory grids showed commonalities in the constructions of the three age groups. Respondents' perceptions of masculinity (construed in terms of social stereotypes and sociability and hedonism) were more clearly defined than perceptions of femininity (construed mainly in terms of social stereotypes). Whilst respondents' self constructions generally conformed to stereotypical conceptions of femininity a reluctance to construe the self entirely in these terms was evident. Age group comparisons revealed changes in perceptions relating to conceptions of behaviour and characteristics associated with the pursuit of science.

Results are discussed in terms of two theoretical perspectives, the development pathways perspective and social categorisation theory and in terms of their implications for girls' educational choices.

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