The impact of social and cultural norms on the way an adolescent shapes and perceives identity has come under greater scrutiny in recent years. Although societies differ in the specific nature of the attributes associated with maleness and femaleness, each society attempts to communicate the gender norms to children and adolescents through various mechanisms. Acculturated gender roles have a significant influence on the way parents rear children, which impacts the way the children view themselves. A conflict between the external societal role assigned to an adolescent based on biological gender and the internal gender identity formed by the adolescent can have negative consequences for psychological health.
Gender identity involves the fundamental sense of belonging to a gender as defined by societal norms, which may be different from the biological sex of the individual (Vasey & Bartlett, 2007). While most adolescents have a gender identity based on their biological sex, many have a strong psychological identification with the opposite biological sex and may desire to become a member of the opposite sex. If the identification with the opposite sex and the desire to become a member of the opposite sex causes significant psychological distress, it is considered a gender identity disorder (GID) based on the criteria in the DSM-IV. In this construct, the identification with the opposite sex is not in itself a disorder, and must be the source of significant distress sufficient to interfere with life activities. Various factors can influence the development of gender identity among children and adolescents, including parental behaviors and norms, peer norms, and the depiction of the gender roles traditional in the society in various types of media.
The cognitive perspective of the development of gender identity suggests that information received from external sources contributes to the formation of gender identity. The amount and quality of the information influences the gender schema of the individual, which is the internal cognitive network that organizes and guides individual perceptions about the attributes associated with masculinity and femininity. The schema is influenced by socialization processes and the feedback received from role models in the adolescent's environment. In this context, the cognitive processing of information leads adolescents to choose as an organizing principle for their behavior and to interpret the behavior of others.
Based on the cognitive perspective of development of gender identity among adolescents, the following research will test three hypotheses. The first hypothesis stated in its alternate form is: Some variations about the conception of sexuality and gender identity are culturally specific. This hypothesis is based on the assumption that some standards of the concept of masculinity and femininity may correlate in all societies, but each society makes adaptations to the standards that are culturally specific. The second hypothesis of the study stated in its alternative form is: Parents influence the development of gender identity through the way they allow children to participate in gender-specific play and the toys they permit the children to use in play. This hypothesis is based on the assumption that parents transmit information to children about socially accepted gender roles, with the adolescent influenced by the information acquired during earlier stages of development. The third hypothesis of the study is: Media has the greatest influence in the transmission of information about social norms related to gender to the individual. The hypothesis is based on the assumption that adolescents are significant consumers of media in various forms. Evidence from research indicates that adolescents draw from popular culture to construct their identities, which includes gender identity (Wright, 2007). As a result, the information embedded in media about gender norms and...