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The correlates and consequences of tomboyism: an exploration of gender-related characteristics, peer interactions, and psychosocial adjustment

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The study of tomboys offers useful insights for the field of gender development. Tomboys have been the focus of several studies aimed at defining what a tomboy is (Bailey, Bechtold,

The study of tomboys offers useful insights for the field of gender development. Tomboys have been the focus of several studies aimed at defining what a tomboy is (Bailey, Bechtold, & Berenbaum, 2002; Plumb & Cowan, 1984; Williams, Goodman, & Green, 1985) and what it means for children and adults who are tomboys (Morgan, 1998; Williams et al., 1985). These and further questions necessitate understanding the correlates and consequences for children exhibiting tomboy behaviors. This study aims to address these gaps in the literature as part of a longitudinal study assessing children's gendered attitudes, relationships, and beliefs. A group of 4th grade girls (N=98), were administered questionnaires asking them about their tomboy gender identity and related behaviors and beliefs. The first research question concerns how we identify tomboys through parent, teacher, and child self-report, and the application of groupings of tomboys as never, sometimes, and always tomboys. It was found that children who fall into different classifications of tomboyism differ on their similarity to own- and other-sex peers on a number of dimensions (e.g. similarity, peer preference, activity preference). Never tomboys had the most similarity and interest to own-sex peers, always tomboys, to other-sex peers, and sometimes tomboys exhibited the most flexibility with interest similar to both own- and other-sex peers. Peer-related adjustment consequences and experiences were considered for the different groups of tomboys, with always tomboys being the most efficacious with other-sex peers, never tomboys being the most efficacious with own-sex peers, and sometimes tomboys showing both own- and other-sex peer interactions and the least exclusion of any group.

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  • 2012

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Exploring developmental patterns and predictors of gender-based relationship efficacy

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Segregation into own-gender peer groups, a common developmental pattern, has many potentially negative short- and long-term consequences. Understanding the social cognitive processes underlying intergroup processes may lead to a better

Segregation into own-gender peer groups, a common developmental pattern, has many potentially negative short- and long-term consequences. Understanding the social cognitive processes underlying intergroup processes may lead to a better understanding of, and a chance to improve, intergroup relations between boys and girls; however, until recently gender-typed cognitions have not received a lot of attention. Therefore, in two complementary studies, this dissertation examines developmental patterns and predictors of a particular type of social cognition, gender-based relationship efficacy (GBRE). The first study examines mean-level and interindividual stability patterns of GBRE longitudinally in two developmental periods: childhood and pre-adolescence. Specifically, the first study examined children’s and pre-adolescents’ GBRE toward own- (GBRE-Own) and other-gender (GBRE-Other) peers over a one-year period. Using a four factor repeated measures analysis of variance, the results indicated that GBRE-Own is significantly higher than GBRE-Other across both cohorts. GBRE-Other, however, increased from childhood to pre-adolescence. Stability and cross-lag effects were examined using a multi-group panel analysis and revealed that GBRE-Own and GBRE-Other were stable. Additionally, high levels of GBRE-Own led to lower levels of GBRE-Other one year later, but high levels of GBRE-Other led to higher levels of GBRE-Own. Implications for understanding segregation processes and suggestions for future research are discussed.

The second study examined potential affective/cognitive, behavioral, and contextual predictors of GBRE-Other in pre-adolescence. Several hypotheses were tested using panel models and regression analyses, but there was limited support. Results indicated that GBRE-Other predicted more positive attitudes toward other-gender peers and higher preferences for other-gender peer interaction and that, for boys, anxious attitudes toward other-gender peers negatively predicted GBRE-Other and, for girls, parental attitudes toward their children’s other-gender friendships negatively predicted GBRE-Other. The lack of significant findings in the second study should be interpreted cautiously. In general, GBRE is an important construct and more research is needed to fully understand the developmental progression and implications.

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  • 2017