Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 9/10, November 2005 (
Black Adolescent Girls: Do Gender Role and Racial
Identity: Impact Their Self-Esteem?
Tamara R. Buckley
and Robert T. Carter
This study was designed to explore Black adolescent girls’ gender roles, racial identity, and
self-esteem. These variables have not been examined together in a study of Black girls, yet
studies of girls from other racial/cultural groups have demonstrated signiﬁcant relationships.
This type of exploration is important because Black girls do not experience the same declines
in self-esteem as girls from other racial/cultural groups. Gender role orientation and racial
identity have been put forth as possible explanations for Black girls’ bolstered levels of self-
esteem. Results indicated that Black girls with androgynous and masculine characteristics
reported high levels of self-esteem. The results also indicated that Black girls with internally
deﬁned Black racial identity attitudes reported high levels of domain-speciﬁc self-esteem. In
addition, androgyny was associated with high scores on internalization (Black racial identity).
KEY WORDS: Black girls; gender roles; racial identity; self-esteem.
For the past century, scholars have described
adolescence as a period in girls’ development when
many begin to devalue their thoughts, feelings,
and perceptions, and, consequently, risk becoming
repressed (Basow, 1999; Brown & Gilligan, 1992;
Deutsch, 1944; Freud, 1905; Pipher, 1994). Theo-
rists have also described early adolescence as an
important time in gender role socialization when
individuals learn traditional gender role attitudes
and behaviors (Erikson, 1968; Miller, 1976; Simmons
& Blyth, 1987). The establishment of a traditional
gender role (i.e., masculinity in boys and feminin-
ity in girls) is considered by some theorists (e.g.,
Erikson, 1950/1963; Kohlberg, 1966) as the major
developmental task of adolescence.
Individuals are socialized into gender roles be-
ginning in infancy, and continued through the adult
Hunter College, City University of New York, New York, New
Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department
of Educational Foundations and Counseling Programs, Hunter
College, CUNY, 695 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10021;
years, via immediate and distal socializing agents
such as parents and the media (Ruble & Martin,
1998). Theorists have proposed that adolescence
is a period of increased gender role differentia-
tion among both boys and girls (Hill & Lynch,
1983), which is triggered by heightened changes in
physical appearance and role expectations (Hill &
Lynch, 1983; Rosenberg, 1965; Stoller, 1968) and
the development of abstract thought (Galambos,
Almeida, & Petersen, 1990). The gender intensiﬁca-
tion hypothesis asserts that there is an acceleration
of gender-differential socialization during adoles-
cence that encourages girls to display stereotypical
feminine characteristics (i.e., passivity, nurturance,
and submissiveness) and boys to display stereotyp-
ical masculine characteristics (i.e., independence,
assertiveness, and strength) (Hill & Lynch, 1983).
At adolescence, gender roles are reorganized, and
the range of allowable preadolescent behaviors is
restricted for boys and girls. Adolescents are en-
couraged to adopt the gender-typical behavior that
is expected throughout adulthood (Stoller, 1968).
There is ample empirical support for the gender
intensiﬁcation hypothesis (e.g., Galambos et al.,
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.