Wood and Eagly (2015) make a valuable contribution to the understanding of gender psychology by reviewing how gender identity has been conceptualized in different literatures. But beyond comparing and contrasting these two traditions in North American and Western European samples, we advocate for more clarity in how gender identity is defined and theorized to relate to personality traits. In this commentary, we favor reserving the term gender identity for one’s gender-relevant self-categorization and outline three main reasons why traits such as agency and communion should not be conflated with gender identity: (a) They are universal dimensions of human behavior that (b) can be decoupled from gender, and (c) when linked to gender exacerbate gender differences in these traits. Broader theoretical models, such as balanced identity theory, can improve understanding of when and why gender identity becomes associated with certain traits to inform self-definition. Although the process by which gender identity becomes linked to certain traits is assumed to be universal, the content of these linkages can be culturally and temporally specific. We suggest that traits become conflated with gender identity when they are endorsed by a gender group and differentiate one gender from the other. This process can lead to active avoidance of a trait by those who feel their gender identity is incompatible with that trait. In sum, we believe there is value in drawing on broader theories of self, identity, and social groups to best understand how people come to define themselves and are defined by gender.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 23, 2015
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