The concept of differential gender socialization is the process of acquiring a certain set of social expectations based on one’s sex. It also includes learning different attitudes and behavior associated with the person’s gender. The gender socialization is established at birth, escalates during adolescence and contributes towards gender inequality in several factors such as: employment status, income, and education later in life. Some of the primary agents of gender socialization are peers, family, social media, political leaders, cultural norms and community/social norms.
Those sources all influence individuals during adolescence and later in life. Adolescence is an intensified period during which differential gender socialization is at its highest peak because behaviors and attitudes are amplified allowing new gender roles to emerge. One of the biggest impacts gender socialization brings about is gender stereotyping. For example, men are suppose to be the stronger gender and are expected to suppress emotion while women are perceived as fragile beings and expected to be good nurses (Santrock, 2016).
Differential gender socialization encourages men to withstand pain, face danger, and be the dominant figure and the protector as well as provider for the family. This type of attitude can put men at a greater risk for poor physical health and injury. Men during the adolescence phase are also taught to conceal their emotions and are often forbidden to be vulnerable. Sometimes this type of behavior is taught in forms of “man up” or run some dirt in it”. This makes them susceptible to higher levels of stress, which can negatively impact their mental health.
As for women, however, they are presented as caretakers, nurtures, and responsible. Women are socialized as someone who is emotional and is allowed to voice her feelings. She is ought be protected by a male such father, brother or husband. Sometimes this can impact women in negative way because just being the caretaker it can physically take a toll on her health. Also, women as primary nurtures can lead to affect their health due to sleep deprivation, high stress levels which can lead to many other health issues such as depression.
Moreover, women who work daytime jobs outside of home and are caretakers at the same time can deteriorate their health both physically and mentally because they may not have enough time to attend to themselves. Differential gender socializing is a problem for a few reasons. The most obvious one being gender inequality. This is critical, because as author Tamar Rapoport of Gender-Differential Patterns of Adolescent Socialization in Three Arenas asserts, “gender-differential socialization in adolescence has direct implications for adulthood, a period in which the gender gap becomes institutionalized in the division of labor” (Rapoprt, 1991).
The presence of gender socializing in adolescents leads to gender discrimination at a relatively young age which constitutes for that type of behavior to shape individuals adulthood. This can be challenging for both men and women. Rapoport further intensifies this issue by profoundly claiming,“the occupational marginality of women, who tend to occupy roles characterized more by interpersonal orientations, caring, and commitments than by competitiveness, risk taking, initiative, and public negotiations (Gilligan, 1982, as cited in Rapoport, 1991).
Men, in contrast, are more likely to exhibit the latter traits, which constitute ‘corporate role behavior’ in the public and organizational arena (Coleman, 1974, Kanter, 1975, as cited in Rapoport, 1991). This notion emerges gender inferiority, making men superior to women. Women have been the secondary society for extensive period of time and it is because of differential gender roles that exist and are aggressively practiced by the society; by us. One way to combat and to reduce the effects of differential social discrimination would be for a change in policy; the policy of society.
There should be a framework developed that can help emerge gender socialization in a better and an equal manner. As an adolescent one can do that by participating in programs that encourage gender equity and perhaps eventually can develop policies that help emerge gender equity as a form of socialization. Taking on such task is imperative for adolescents so that their gender roles and attitudes will better influence for the future generations to come.