We evaluated Bem’s (1981, 1993) thesis that psychological androgyny—perceiving the self to possess characteristics of both genders—is associated with healthy adjustment and minimal gender-polarizing cognition. Prior studies testing Bem’s ideas have yielded ambiguous results, mainly because self-perceptions of gender-typed attributes have been inferred narrowly from self-perceptions of expressive and instrumental personality traits. We administered measures of gender identity (self-perceived similarity to a gender) that more clearly capture self-perceptions of attributes typical of a gender, and we examined conjoint influences of same-gender typicality and other-gender typicality on children’s self-esteem, internalizing problems, felt pressure for gender differentiation, and sexist ideology. Two studies were conducted with ethnically/racially diverse samples of preadolescent children in the southeastern United States. In Study 1 (N = 305, M age = 10.8 years), androgynous children (i.e., children who saw themselves as similar to both genders) reported high self-esteem, evidenced few internalizing problems, and reported feeling little pressure for gender differentiation. In Study 2 (N = 236, M age = 11.3 years), androgynous boys reported few sexist beliefs. Children with other patterns of gender identity (e.g., high same-gender typicality coupled with low other-gender typicality) sometimes showed similar correlates, but each other pattern of gender identity was associated with poor adjustment or strong gender-differentiating cognition on at least one dependent variable whereas androgyny never was. Results support Bem’s thesis that persons who perceive themselves as possessing characteristics of both genders enjoy mental health advantages over those who perceive themselves as possessing characteristics of only one.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: May 10, 2016
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