A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health confirmed that gender norms can seriously strain young people’s mental health. Both girls and boys struggle with conforming to the standards to fit in and meet the expectations.
The study (which you can find here) included 10,000 children 10–14 from different cultural backgrounds, e. g. China, Ecuador, Belgium, etc. The researchers aimed to examine how young people entering adolescence see gender roles and how they feel about them.
Results showed that the pressure of meeting gender expectations upon entering puberty can lead to depression, victimization but can also trigger violence. According to experts, children entering puberty face drastic changes in their physical image and the socially imposed male/female distinction they need to conform to.
The paper further explained that many teenagers choose to conform to the prescribed roles rather than confront society, despite being uncomfortable with what those roles expect of them. Reasons range from insecurity to social approval, but all show link to significant mental health consequences.
The most common result of internalizing gender stereotypes is depression which usually manifests in loss of interest, school performance, and self-confidence issues. Depression rates were much higher in girls, whereas for boys this internalization sparks violence as an answer to masculinity.