Does Gender or Sexuality Affect a Young Person’s Transition to Adulthood

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 30 October 2016

Does Gender or Sexuality Affect a Young Person’s Transition to Adulthood

In this essay there will be a discussion about whether or gender effects the transition to adulthood. There will be a brief definition of gender and transition. There has been great debate over gender but there has been little about masculinity and femininity and the transition to adulthood. It will look at the transitions that gender goes through in relation to that of the past and present day. Then which will be compared if they have changed or continuously stayed the same. There will be theoretical discussion of the psychoanalytic and biosocial theory and how this helps us to understand if gender effects the transitions to adulthood. Being in school and going into the workforce will be examples of how these theories can be applied and explain again if the transitions to adulthood are effect by gender. Then to finished there will be a conclusion.

When we think of gender we normal think of the sex of the person, so whether they are female or male. According to Mackenzie (2001:150) gender “relates to social divisions associated with notions of masculinity and femininity and such divisions vary according to changing contexts”. But is it as simple as this?! Gender is not just determined by whether you are male or female; it is a lot deeper than that as has a variety of aspects. These are gender assignment, gender role, gender identity and gender attribution. To become an adult there is considered to be five core transitions that a young person goes through. These are leaving home, completing school, entering the workforce, marriage and having children. This process is prolonged and varied compared to that of half a century ago. In comparison to then it takes longer for young adults to gain economic and psychological autonomy. According to Berlin et al (2010:20) “ experiences in early adulthood now vary greatly by gender, race, ethnicity and social class.

In industrial society’s most men make the transition to adulthood by be able to go out and work. In comparison to some world cultures who make their transition through rituals. However, the passage form boy to man has become more complicated and hard to determine, which has cause issues which they are not mentally and physically prepared for flood et al(2007:666). Today there is contradiction and problems in relation to what it is to be a man is on the upraise and this is practically noticeable where there has been conflict, for example, in Northern Ireland (ibid). In Northern Ireland there is a tradition for men to live up the masculinity that was presented by other before them which has put pressure of the youths to be just the same. The homicide rates between 1969 to 2001 are a reflection of the phenomena that is associated with the transition of youth into adulthood and violence.

There has been more studies on the gender norms is not new however there is significant difference in the amount of research on female and males. Morgan 1981 argues that ‘taking gender seriously’ means bring men back in. he stresses that if we accept that men is not the norm women the deviation and if we want to fully understand the life experiences and chances of all men and women we need to consider the social construction of both femininity and masculinity and focus our research and women and men experiences”. Marchbank& Letherby( 2007:28) . Although it was not until the 20th century that subcultures were recognised as male due to the youth movement but still masculinity was not studied flood et all (2007:666). It is the belief of feminist that males disempowered women, according to McKinnon that there is system of power in which male dominances that oppresses women. Therefore, masculinity was seen as a problem. (Mackinnon, C. (1993) However Hearn argues that “In particular, it refers to the way in which particular forms of masculinity persist not just in relation to femininity, but also to other forms of masculinity.

Accordingly, different forms of masculinity exist in relations of power, that may be characterized as hegemonic or subordinated in relation to one another” Bagihole &cross (2002: 208). This suggests the men are not only oppressors of women but of other men.

Men and female are different in respect to the gender roles in which they adopt. Naturally men are more strong, aggressive and emotionally detached compared to females who nurturing and caring. However, the family play’s is significant in terms of gender and the transition to adult. The family are the first interaction that the child will have and this is where the main socialisation occurs. They will learn the norms, values and morals form their family In the 1950’s and 1960’s the family role and adult responsibility were viewed as bring synonymous. Men were characterized by the capability to marry and support the family. Whereas, it was getting married and becoming a mother for women. By the age of twenty one woman was married and had a child by the age they was twenty three. This suggests that by the age twenty that men and women were recognised as adults. In the 20th century there was not much relevance’s of when adolescence was, but in their late teen’s men worked and most of them had formed families. Transitions to adulthood were similar today and just before the industrialization because like then becoming and adult was a gradual and characterized by “semi-autonomy” with youths waiting until they were economically stable to set up a home.

Eagly (1987) social role theory looks at two structural aspects of gender relations. These are the gendered divisions of labour and gendered based hierarchy. This theory demonstrates how these factors pin down the beliefs that society has about men and women. It shows hoe roles of individuals require particular traits and behaviour in order to be seen competent of their gender. Society for example has the idea that women have to be the child bearer and a process the child rearing traits. This is due to the biological reproduction that they have. The theory believes that due to the role segregation it encourages set beliefs and stereotype. This can be seen with the traits associated with each gender. Males are expected to be aggressive, brave, breadwinner and physical able. Whereas, in terms of female they are considered to be caring and nurturing due to their child rearing traits. The gendered stereotypes are reinforced by the status differences of men and women. There appears to be a link between divisions of labour and hierarchy. It is said that makes roles carry more importance and statuses compared to those of females. Home rearing is considered to be of low status compared to that of males who are of high statuses and bring money in. This suggests that stereotypes towards gender reflect upon the status of their traditional roles.

It was Freud psychoanalytic theory that looks at the idea that biological factors and the social environment as defining influences of a child’s gender role development. Freud believed the gender role developed in the phallic stage, the child will experience a biological based attachment for the parent of the opposite gender. It was the belief of Freud that it was due the child’s identification with the same gender that resulted in gender role development. The theory helps to explain the reason why boys and girls act in certain ways. Freud stated” that boys are more motivated then girls acquire a more define gender role” Lowu (2007:291) there will is more define because of social pressures.

According to money and ehrhardt (1972) biosocial theory there are specific events that determine a person gender role. Almost from the minute that the parent’s find out the sex of the child they will treat the child according to their gender. For example, if the sex of the child is a boy then the colour that the parent will dress them is typically blue and pink if it is a girl. The environment in which the child lives in is also determined by their gender. According to jones (2009:81) the colours that the parents pick shows masculinity or femininity. Therefore as there is this assumption then this affects the clothes, activities and toys they are encouraged to do, this would suggest that each gender are encourage to go down a particular path. The colours that the parents pick shows masculinity or femininity. Therefore as there is this assumption then this affects the clothes, activities and toys they are encouraged to do, this would suggest that each gender are encourage to go down a particular path

This then in term may affect the way in which they portray themselves as young adolescents in school. Most girls fine this transition from youth to adolescence quiet difficult, most girls will portray themselves in a way to which they will achieve male approval, this is more easy for those of the popular group. This allows more opportunity for this type of grills to put them at rick and in dangerous situation as they are portraying an older sexuality. According to Woods (1994:32) state “that women are portrayed as women as sex objects who are usually young, thin beautiful, passive, dependent, and often incompetent and dumb. Female characters devote their primary energies to improving their appearances and taking care of homes and people”.

If this is the image that is being injected in the youth minds then it is likely that this is how they will behaviour as they enter into a relationship. This can be seen as negative thing in the eyes of feminists as they beleive that women are oppressed by men. However, if they are raised the same way they have been parents were raised then this would be considered the norm. However, those who were not part of the in crowd reject the notion that there body was for the desire of men only. They opted for the comfy culture rather than the ‘tarty’ look. At this age there is a lot of images that young people will be surround by the media. As mentioned before there is the portrayal of ideal women all over the media, it this girl both in the popular crowds and none popular crowds can have an effect on the transition to adulthood. These images will allow the young girls to think that they have to look a certain way in order to be desire by males (Renold. E. (2005) This may result in it effecting there health as they may develop an eating disorder to get their desire look. This could be detrimental their ability to have a family in the future. This suggests that they will not meet one of the five core traditions.

In comparison males transitions to adulthood by building on hierarchy among there group. A way that they do this is via showing there masculinity by taking up sports, this will be were all the hierarchy ranking will take place. If they have a problem they will generally solve their issue by fighting this results in them protecting their man hood. Whereas with girls if they have an issues with other then this will go on for a period of time ( Goodwin 2006)

Another transition that men and women have is going to full time work. This can be a hard transition to adjust to as being a young adolescence most of the time does not mean having the responsibility of a full time job. Especially for women as they will also have to consider with the right time to have a family is. A problem with this is that they will have to a battle for equal pay. The equal pay act was not introduced till 1947 and was a direct change due to the changing roles of women in society. This means that men and women will receive the same amount of pay for the same job. As well as this, they can apply for the same position in a job regardless of where it is in the hierarchy. However, saying this and it being put into action is different.

Still today there is a debate about men and women’s pay. If a man and women go for the same job it is more likely that the man will be given the job. A reason for this may be that if a women has ring her finger the employer will take into account that there is a high chance she will want a family. This mean that they would have to pay for maternity leave,whereas will a man this would not be the case. It is the believed that there is “An important part of this cultural change comes from providing better information to employees and to shareholders on a company’s record on equal pay and employment,” ( This may affect the way women transition into the workforce, this is because they may be put of the idea of career as they may feel what’s the point working at the same level as men only to receive less pay then them.

To conclude it would suggest that gender does have a effect on the transition to adulthood. It is apparent that the way in which gender transitions in the past was based on the idea of the men being the bread winner and the female the child bearer. However this has seemed to change as time has moved on. The different theories look at the transition from different points of view but all suggest that gender does affect the transition. It will appear that girls more than more have a tougher time making the transition due to surrounding influences in society.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 30 October 2016

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