Youths' well-being linked to how well they conform to gender norms

August 8, 2012 By Karene Booker

(Medical Xpress) -- Regardless of their sexual orientation, teens who do not fit behavioral norms for their gender are not as happy as their gender-conforming peers, finds a new Cornell study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (41:611-621).

The findings suggest it may be the effects of not conforming to gender stereotypes, rather than , that drive the increased mental health risks found among non-heterosexual youth. Although being a feminine boy or a masculine girl is often related to sexual orientation, until now, the separate effects of gender expression and sexuality on mental health had not been untangled.

"We need to rethink how sexual orientation relates to health. Too much emphasis has been put on a non-heterosexual orientation itself being detrimental," said Gerulf Rieger, lead author and Cornell postdoctoral associate, who conducted the study with Ritch C. Savin-Williams, professor of human development and director of the Sex and Gender Lab at Cornell's College of .

For their research, Rieger and Savin-Williams analyzed data from 475 rural who participated in a survey about their sexual orientation, preference for male-typical or female-typical activities, and psychological well-being.

The researchers found that the non-heterosexual youth in the study were more likely to violate for behavior, feelings, activities and interests, but so did some heterosexual youth. The effect of being a feminine boy or a masculine girl was similar regardless of sexual orientation -- both childhood and adolescent gender nonconformity were negatively linked to well-being. The effects on mental health, however, were small, which the researchers say may explain why most same-sex oriented individuals experience few .

"Perhaps some adolescents are harassed not so much because they are gay," said Savin-Williams, "but because they violate 'acceptable' ways of acting. If so, sexism may be a more pervasive problem among youth than homophobia."

This research was supported by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station federal formula funds, received from the National Institutes for Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Explore further: Sexual orientation has 'in between' groups, study shows

Related Stories

Sexual orientation has 'in between' groups, study shows

May 9, 2012
Sexual orientation is best represented as a continuum that has two new categories -- "mostly heterosexual" and "mostly gay/lesbian" -- in addition to heterosexual, bisexual or gay/lesbian, according to a new Cornell study.

Sexual orientation and gender conforming traits in women are genetic

July 7, 2011
Sexual orientation and 'gender conformity' in women are both genetic traits, according to new research from Queen Mary, University of London.

Pupil dilation reveals sexual orientation: study

August 6, 2012
There is a popular belief that sexual orientation can be revealed by pupil dilation to attractive people, yet until now there was no scientific evidence. For the first time, researchers at Cornell University used a specialized ...

Sexual orientation fluctuation correlated to alcohol misuse

June 6, 2012
Many young adults explore and define their sexual identity in college, but that process can be stressful and lead to risky behaviors. In a new study, students whose sexual self-definition didn't fall into exclusively heterosexual ...

Recommended for you

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Infants know what we like best, study finds

July 27, 2017
Behind the chubby cheeks and bright eyes of babies as young as 8 months lies the smoothly whirring mind of a social statistician, logging our every move and making odds on what a person is most likely to do next, suggests ...

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.