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Gender Identity among African American and European American Adolescents


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Title: Gender Identity among African American and European American Adolescents

Gender Identity among African American and
European American Adolescents
  • Susan A. ONeill
  • Melanie H. Overby
  • Oksana Malanchuk
  • University of Michigan
  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • April 25, 2003

Previous Conceptions of Gender Identity
  • Categorization of oneself and others as female or
    male (Golombok Fivush, 1994)
  • Gender knowledge and behavior viewed as separate
    and distinct (Burn, 1996)

Gender Identity as Socially Constructed
  • Recent approaches view gender behavior as
    socially negotiated (Beall, 1993).
  • Representations of gender derive from the social
  • Gender identity is historically and culturally
    relative, dependent on social, economic, and
    political structures.

Discursive Psychology and Gender Identity
  • The image of the self is dependent on the
    language used in everyday life
  • Identify respondents patterns of language and
    related practices
  • Language enables and constrains expression of
    ideas and behavior language culture

Power and Gender Identity
  • Gender and power are closely connected and power
    is inequitably distributed
  • Differences in the discourses available to males
    and females (Gergen, 1984)
  • Experimental psychology has been limited in its
    ability to explain the dynamics of power

Positioning Theory - Conceptual
  • Individuals are subjected to and produced by
    societal ideologies
  • Ideology creates subjects by drawing people
    into particular positions or identities
    (Althusser, 1971)
  • Individuals interpret their own and others
    actions from the vantage point of their subject

Positioning Theory - Methodological
  • Who is implied? What does a statement say about
    the respondent?
  • Examination of three basic features
  • The subject positions in relation to socially
    prescribed rights and actions
  • The context in which respondents construct their
    position and others
  • The ideologies that shape interpretations and
    understandings of groups

Research Questions
  • How do African American and European American
    female and male adolescents negotiate and
    formulate their gender identities?
  • Where do adolescents position themselves in
    relation to different and opposing power

Data Analysis
  • Voice of authority framework associated with
    the construction of a national identity (Berman,
  • Allowed categories to emerge from the data
  • Focused on the inconsistency and diversity within
    and across respondents accounts
  • Used individual and team analysis
  • Considered alternative interpretations and our
    own biases and experiences

Subject Positions of Gender Representations of
Empowerment and Disempowerment
Dominance Marginalization
Provider/Protector Dependent
Individual Agency Group Constraints
Virtuous Status Presumed Guilty Status
Dominance and Marginalization Positions of Black
and White females and males
Dominance Dominance Marginalization Marginalization
Females Males Females Males
Tracy Clarence Tracy Leon
Anthony Belinda
Henry Lakeisha
Leon Kendra
Travis Katrina
George Antoinette
Carl Crystal
  • Inequality between the sexes
  • Were not characterized as equals. I dont
    think we will be for a long time, if ever.
    Crystal, White
  • Differential treatment
  • I have to talk a little louder to be seen or
    heard Belinda, Black female
  • Manipulation and authority
  • We rule the worldGod created women to be in
    subjection to the male.
    Anthony, Black male
  • Occupational prestige associated with race and
  • top of the corporate ladder is generally a
    white male. Carl, White male
  • Sexuality as a means of empowerment
  • You can get boys to do whatever you want. Boys
    are stupid. Tracy, Black female

Provider/Protector and Protected Positions of
Black and White females and males
Provider/Protector Provider/Protector Protected Protected
Females Males Females Males
Ann Brian Ann
  • Adopting the traditional role of primary bread
  • What I believe to be a male is, I guess, should
    be in charge, take care of his home and family,
    stuff like that.
    Carl, White male
  • Female as nurturer
  • I have to be there for my boyfriend and support
    him and take care of him.
    Ann, White female
  • Supported
  • I dont have a problem if my husband was my
    provider and I didnt work and I raised the
    kids. Ann, White female

Individual Agency and Group Constraints Positions
of Black and White females and males
Individual Agency Individual Agency Group Constraints Group Constraints
Females Males Females Males
Antoinette James Brian
Lakeisha Malcolm Carl
Marjorie Leon
Kendra Joan Travis
Individual Agency
Group Constraints
  • Emphasizing humanity
  • I feel that to be a person, period, you have
    to be responsible, regardless of whether youre
    male or female.
    James, Black male
  • Overcoming gender constraints
  • I have to keep focused on what I want to do
    with my life and I cant let people, or things
    like boys and stuff, get in my way. -
    Lakeisha, Black female
  • Male stereotypes
  • Males are viewed as corrupt, wild and crazy
    Travis, White male
  • Intersectionality and stereotypes
  • You get blamed for stuff that you didnt even
    do. Its a double negative when youre a black
    male teenager.
    Brian, Black male

Virtuous Status and Presumed Guilty Status
Positions of Black and White females and males
Virtuous Status Virtuous Status Presumed Guilty Status Presumed Guilty Status
Females Males Females Males
Stacy Belinda
Colette Colette
Ann Katrina
Jane Jane
Virtuous Status
Presumed Guilty Status
  • Guilt by association
  • Its amazing how you tell people where you go to
    school, and they find out its all girls, and
    especially boys, and theyre like, what are you
    all lesbians or something?
    Belinda, Black female
  • Entitlement through experience
  • Its more acceptable for a girl my age to have
    babies. Ann, White female
  • Autonomy
  • I hate for a person to approach me wrong.
    Stacy, Black female
  • Apportion blame to others
  • silly for girls to have sex to keep boyfriends
    Colette, Black female

Subject Positions of Black and White females and
Females Males Females Males
Dominance Tracy Clarence Marginalization Tracy Leon
Dominance Anthony Marginalization Belinda
Dominance Henry Marginalization Lakeisha
Dominance Leon Marginalization Kendra
Dominance Travis Marginalization Katrina
Dominance George Marginalization Antoinette
Dominance Carl Marginalization Crystal
Provider/ Protector Ann Brian Dependent Ann
Provider/ Protector Henry Dependent
Provider/ Protector Leon Dependent
Provider/ Protector Carl Dependent
Individual Agency Antionette James Group Constraints Brian
Individual Agency Lakeisha Malcolm Group Constraints Carl
Individual Agency Marjorie Group Constraints Leon
Individual Agency Kendra Joan Group Constraints
Virtuous Status Stacy Presumed Guilty Status Belinda
Virtuous Status Colette Presumed Guilty Status Colette
Virtuous Status Ann Presumed Guilty Status Katrina
Virtuous Status Jane Presumed Guilty Status Jane
Summary of Findings
  • Empowered representations of gender were shaped
  • Positioning the person as an individual and
    emphasizing a common humanity
  • Ascribing personal responsibility to the
  • Renouncing historical and institutional
    restraints associated with constraining gender
  • Endorsing positions that were situated in the
    traditional discourses of power

  • Representations of power were apparent in
    adolescents accounts of what their gender means
    to them
  • Findings are intended to open new avenues for
    exploring the complexity of gender identity
  • Possible to understand how adolescents
    representations of power create both
    opportunities and barriers

Thank you!
  • For more information about this paper and other
    research projects, please visit
  • http//

(No Transcript)
Language Culture
  • Although there is a number of available
    discourses, some discourses are more privileged
    than others
  • Variation in discourses allows for fluidity of
    gender-related identities

Sample and Procedure
  • 16 (11 female, 5 male) African American
  • 8 (4 female, 4 male) European American
  • Semi-structured interviews at the end of 11th
    grade by matched interviewers
  • Interview protocol Meaning and salience of
    race/ethnicity, gender, and spirituality