Posted by: lkd1998 | March 19, 2020

Gender Socialization and Aggression of Adolescent Girls

The development of children into women and men is largely dependent on their caretakers. Young girls are therefore primed from infancy to act ladylike, becoming empathetic and responsible whereas boys are socialized to become authoritarian and dominating, more outspoken than the girls. Per the article I found, this socialization results in girls valuing relationships with others much more highly than their male counterparts. The fear of losing those relationships results in girls becoming aggressive, though not physically like boys, but verbally. This is almost encouraged of girls in adolescents as girls are seen as gossips and manipulators. The researchers also found that socio-cultural influences forced girls into suppressing emotions and instead use passive methods to express themselves further inflicting the stereotypes of women.

From the household, parents socialize boys and girls to handle conflict differently. Most children directly model their parents actions, continuing negative cycles of gender socialization in exhibits of aggression. Researchers found that girls were twice as likely to engage in conflict with their families than boys due to societal and familial expectations. The researchers suggested that this negative socialization of girls could potentially be combatted through school systems in which teachers and specific programs could work to empower young girls and not fit the stereotypes they were raised by. Different models need to be presented to young girls and boys to prevent these harmful socializations.

I believe the socialization of girls from youth leads to further division between men and women into adulthood. This has clear implications to the world of leadership and the double bind of women. Female leaders are often times seen as catty and dramatic when addressing issues whereas men are seen as authoritarian, a much more positive connotation. This complicates the labyrinth women are forced to navigate to get the same advantages and opportunities that men are given in the leadership world.

What are your thoughts on this research? What do you think of the stereotype that girls are verbally aggressive (gossips, taunts, etc.)? How could this socialization of girls (and boys) change? What do you think of the obligations put on boys versus girls? How does this effect women as leaders in your experience?

Letendre, J. “Sugar and Spice But Not Always Nice”: Gender Socialization and its Impact on Development and Maintenance of Aggression in Adolescent Girls. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 24, 353–368 (2007).


  1. I thought the research article brought up very accurate points that I could see myself and peers relating to in some regards. Whenever I get upset with someone, I abstain from sharing my emotions upfront because I fear I may say something wrong and regret it later. Ever since I was a teen, I followed my three-chance rule, which gives a person three chances to hopefully change their attitude or else I will say something. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, yet I also understand by not directly telling the person how I feel just perpetuates their behavior and they might not be cognizant of how it bothers me. This relates to the passive aggressiveness explained by the article that most girls use as a tactic to not come-off as violent or unladylike.

    Admittingly, as I get older I have reflected on how I was raised and compare it to observations of how children are raised today. I think there is more of a lax approach to parenting in some families, which leads to a lack of discipline and respect for authority, the learning of simple manners, and certainly reduced attention toward children by parents due to a heavy work-first culture. None of these factors should be generalized to all parents, but I think that the current “politically correct” culture is not providing kids with skills to properly defend themselves within certain social situations, in fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Yet, if social media, movies, and video games continue to show boy and girl characters being physically violent to settle a dispute, how will a kid who was raised to respect others protect himself/herself from a bully who uses physical or verbal violence, similar to that found in media and video games?

    I think what would help change the socialization of girls and boys, would be to have programs on TV that reflect moral and ethical standards that treat each person with respect, and get rid of reality TV shows that show grown women having cat fights over materialistic things, or finding your “true-love” within a matter of months of vacationing on some majestic island, or showing celebrities who seem to “have it all.” The irony of reality TV is that most of those situations are not reality, yet adolescents do not recognize this and rather say “I want to be just like that person.” Why don’t we have realistic role models with life goals and actual careers that young men and women can look up to? Perhaps, this could be a start in changing how young boys and girls view themselves and others, and learn to appreciate and form better relationships with the ones who actually love them.

    Lastly, from my experience, women leaders who are perceived as more verbally aggressive will get the eye-rolls or be seen as rude or intense. However, those women get the job done, so being passive aggressive may not get you anywhere when in a situation where you want people to pay attention to what you have to say.

  2. When I think about being in grade school, I definitely remember there always being the bias towards little girls. We were always told that we gossip too much, which definitely led to problems, but I remember the boys gossiping as well. I can agree that girls are verbally aggressive, however I feel like boys have a tendency to have that aggression as well. The main difference I remember is in how girls and boys react to the verbal aggression. Girls seem to find different and more hurtful ways to “get back” at someone, whereas boys will “give it back” in the same way. Additionally, I feel that girls tend to linger on a subject, while boys tend to move on quicker. Maybe those were just my observations, but I definitely remember these things happening.

    Considering how to change the socialization is tricky. The easiest answer for people to give is to say that boys and girls should be raised and treated the same. This means equal opportunities to get involved outside of the home, equal freedoms and punishments, etc. However, while it is important that girls and boys receive equal opportunities, sometimes they have to be treated different while being raised. Biologically, girls and boys are different. Hormones and testosterone exist and can cause drastic changes in behavior. Therefore, sometimes it is necessary to have a different “style” for raising boys and girls. As far as obligations go, I definitely think there are more put on boys. However, I believe this is reliant on the family structure itself. If there is a family with a boy and a girl there will definitely be more, however if there is a family with only a girl/girls, the amount put on a girl may be very high.

  3. Gabby’s comment touched on this a little bit, but I think that one of the biggest contributors to this gender socialization is the media. Just think of what T.V. shows and movies say about the “gossiper” role of females – Mean Girls and Gossip Girl immediately come to mind. But this starts even in T.V. shows and movies for little girls and boys to watch. For me, I think of all of the girl protagonist Disney Channel shows growing up like Hannah Montana, Lizzie McGuire, or Wizards of Waverly Place and in each of these shows there was that one girl who is the classic gossiper out to destroy reputations, start rumors, and be passive aggressive.

    A CNN article that discusses how media teaches kids about gender points out that gender stereotypes portrayed over and over again on T.V. and in movies is extremely effective at teaching young kids what the societal expectations are for their gender. And it is all happening at a time when kids are most receptive and influenced in their development. Kids will then reflect what they see displayed as norms and what is acceptable behavior for their gender in schools and it solidifies the gender socialization that occurs at school.

    I think change would need to happen in how the media portrays gender stereotypes, especially in T.V. shows and movies targeted to younger audiences, in order to limit the socialization of stereotyped gender norms.

  4. I do think gender socialisation taught from the home has a very heavy impact on how one perceives oneself. Whatever roles each parent has assumed, children will inherently reflect this and take on that role in relationships, respective of gender. I do agree that education, the second most influential party in a young person’s life, could help combat whatever negative socialization that occurs in the home. I know from many people that school was a place that helped them break out of or stand up to a negative environment they experienced at home. Socializing with other kids and spending time with friends at their houses also opens doors for children to observe a different organization of roles and expectations. At my house, I am still chastised for burping from my father, yet he is allowed to burp whenever and however he feels. I’m to the point where I burp anyway. I don’t think being a female should determine if I am allowed to vocally expel air from my stomach, but that’s just me. I will say, it was not until highschool and from observing other parenting styles that I decided it should be okay to burp in my house. I know this is a silly example, but I find it a safe/trivial one that still showcases the topic of your post.
    We’ve touched on this in class, but I think the number one expectation of boys today is the list of emotions that they are allowed to show and not show. Crying, expressing feelings other than confidence or aggression are still frowned upon. This perpetuates the lack of emphasis on personal relationships in a boy’s life. Later in life, if this holds (to the extreme), it would make sense that a male would look down upon a female’s leadership style if it is more emotionally based and collaborative or if she shows any hint of indecision. This type of leadership should be frowned upon from that man’s perspective because for the entirety of his upbringing, he was overtly or covertly shown that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated. Why should he now accept that it is okay?

  5. There is a line from the Mean Girls Musical that I think applies very well to this situation. The character of Janis sings a song entitled, “I’d Rather Be Me”, and in it she states, “We’re supposed to all be ladies/ and be nurturing and care/ Is that really fair? Boys get to fight, we have to share/ Heres the way that turns out/we always understand/How to slap someone down/With our underhand”. I think this not only touches on the points in the article between the way that women and men are taught to behave in general and deal with conflict, but then also what others have said on the influence that the media has on the way that we act. From a young age, girls are taught that they are not allowed to have direct conflict with others and they they should just brush off what it said about them. Whereas when boys fight rough with each other they are told “It’s just boys being boys”. Not only this but even further, in when we hear rude comments being made behind out back I can clearly remember being told at a young age, to not pay any attention to it as, “Its just because they are jealous of you”. Being told these things leads into the mentality that being passive to behaviors is the proper way thing to do to avoid conflict.

    Growing up from a young age I was always and still am very intimidated by confrontation. I think it wasn’t until college when my RA would talk about “healthy confrontation”, that I had ever thought about confrontation as something that could be a good thing. I always associated confrontation as aggression and yelling and the possibility of ruing relationships (which I cherish very much), but in reality confronting a behavior that has hurt you or bringing to light something that needs to change can actually preserve the relationship. Rather than allowing not talking about the situation to fester inside and degrade the relationship in that way. For me, I think something that would have helped me, would have been being taught from a young age about how to communicate effectively to be able to resolve conflict without the fear that is many times associated with it.

  6. This is a really important conversation that needs to be happening more in our society. In what ways are we hurting our children by having specific expectations of boys and specific expectations of girls? Why are girls expected to love pink and Barbies but if a boy likes these things, they are too “girly”? I think that even as a 20-year-old, I am already “taking notes” on how I want to parent my future children. That might sound weird to some, but I believe that how we raise our children changes the trajectory of our society.

    As I have taken this class, I have realized that the way my own parents have raised me is different from how they raised my brother. They were not doing this intentionally, but yet it still socialized me and turned me into what I am expected to be: a “girly girl”. I loved Barbies, clothes, makeup, and jewelry from a young age. I wanted to be a mother when I was 6 years old. I knew that I wanted to be married one day and have children. I also loved playing Star Wars and digging up worms in the mud. Could another boy say the same? Why can’t girls love sports? Why do parents cringe if their boys are playing with dolls or if their girls don’t like wearing dresses? As someone with a lot of younger cousins, I notice how my aunts and uncles socialize my cousins. Some are more consistent with how they raise their boys and girls; my uncle has two young boys and never disciplines them in a way that might seem more “masculine” or “tough”. I have noticed that he is extremely gentle with his sons and so is my aunt; both of them intentionally communicate kindness to their boys, even though some might see this parenting style as “soft”.

    If we tell our boys to be aggressive and intense but we teach our girls to be sweet and gentle, then it makes sense why sexism exists and violence against women occurs so often. Why do we teach our girls to hide and be quiet? I think this kind of socialization continues the shame behind sexual violence and rape that so many women suffer from (men suffer too). When the #MeToo movement was happening, I noticed a lot of things that were being said and I tried to pay attention to the dialogue. Women have always been told to “be careful”: about their clothes, about what they say, about how much they drink. And while I do believe there is a certain level of safety ALL people should maintain, why should women have to be any more careful than men? Maybe instead of teaching our girls to “be careful”, we should teach our boys to be RESPECTFUL and understand that consent in relationships is crucial. I understand that it isn’t as simple as that, but in some ways, we can start real social change in the home with what we are communicating to our children: respect and kindness.

    Here is a very compelling advertisement that inspired my comments:

  7. I find it interesting that the article you talk about seems to connote the idea that physically fighting with people will make you lose your relationship with them, but verbally fighting with them will not do the same (I got this from your statement that girls do not want to lose their relationships with people, so they engage in verbal attacks rather than physical). To me, I think one of the worst things you can do is verbally attack your friends. Calling people names and saying horrible things about them can stick with them for a long time. Even if they can’t remember what you said, they will remember how you made them feel. Thus, I find it interesting that the article seems to communicate that physical attacks are more likely to make you lose your friendships rather than verbal attacks. I wonder if there’s an evolutionary psychology explanation for this? After all, if we went around attacking each other and/or our families back then, it would have caused splits and divisions along with feelings of mistrust between groups of people. In turn, this would have communicated that people who physically attack us can not be trusted to help us survive. Thus, I think it’s possible that if we believe that physical fighting is more likely to make us lose our friendships, we hesitate to attack one another because we don’t want to lose our method of survival.

    I also think it’s important to beg the question: Why are we socialized to fight more? What is the purpose of this? If we associate communal norms, collaborative processes, and relationship-oriented leadership with women, why are we also encouraging them to fight with each other more? This seems like a societal double standard. Another example of how we can’t be too perfect in either direction. “Make sure you get along well with others, but don’t get along too well. Make sure you’re also engaging in negative conversation about others so you can feel superior to them. But make sure you’re trying to be nice and friendly to everyone too!” This all communicates conflicting values to me, adding to the increased pressures of being the most perfect women we can be and providing conflicting guidelines on what it means to be a woman leader.

    I think women leaders are seen as catty and dramatic because most of the world does not want to acknowledge our emotions as valid. When we talk about fights that happen between girls, we think of them as catty or overdramatic because we’ve been taught that girls are too emotional and are therefore unable to handle conflict in healthy ways. The world needs to acknowledge the importance of emotions and how helpful they can be in resolving conflict. We need to socialize boys and girls from a young age the importance of emotions and how to properly manage them so we don’t have pointless fights with each other or completely ignoring our emotions for the sake of physical fighting over problems. Neither of these methods of conflict resolution works and if we want to develop better leaders, we must teach children how to properly handle their emotions (EQ).

  8. I find your post to be very relevant to my life. I was lucky enough to grow up with a very empowered mother who is now in one of the top positions at the law firm that she works at. When she first started working in law, however, she was the only female in her office and was often looked down upon. It is from her that I gained my persistence to do my best in everything that I do, despite gender stereotypes that may try and hold me back. However, my father has some deeply instilled gender roles, and our household growing up constantly held a dichotomy of feminism and female gender roles. There were countless times throughout my childhood where I was the one left with cleaning after dinner while my brother and father watched sports together. I remember being so frustrated by this growing up. It was not until college really that I fully understood the biases behind how I was treated while living at home. I’ve heard countless stories from other female friends of dealing with gendered stereotypes growing up, and it concerns me a lot that we aim to live in such a progressive and equal society, yet even our own generation is seemingly perpetuating these gender roles. Even Gen Z seems to be continuing this perspective. Big changes need to happen in order to create an equal society, that sadly will not happen overnight.

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