The Social Construction of Gender Identities in Children: a qualitative study
Sociology ISCTE Lisbon, Portugal
This paper appears as a result of a doctoral thesis entitled "Processes of Social Construction of Gender Identities: an intensive study of a preadolescent group in Viseu". The field work in a preparatory school in the city of Viseu, Portugal, has predicted a variety of logics underlying these processes and two major trends stand out in the construction of gender identities in children: the incorporation of what is transmitted in socialization contexts; and also the individualization and negotiation of gender roles. Some ambivalence emerged in the various social actors, since we could identify signs of gender "equalization" and, at the same time, actors have expressed gender stereotypes in their speeches, which can be associated with male and female representations. So, a gap was noticed between how reality "should be" and the accurate attitudes and practices, which hence reveal gender schemas based on naturalised categories "man" and "woman". In some way the reflexive modernity context shows us social changes as a growing individualization and a strong subjectivity in the projects of personal and social identities construction. The study's first results show evidence of several logics in the processes of gender identities construction, which go beyond socialization theories. There might be tensions caused by the coexistence of different approaches in gender identities construction, since actors seem to be divided between discourse and practises referring to gender roles representations and the interactions in which they embody that roles. This can also generate a tension in gender roles and stereotypes negotiation, or even a tension between the sexualized body and self-aspirations in identities construction. Thus, in these children's complex gender identities construction processes and identization projects, we've been attempting to understand more profoundly the mosaic of tensions, ambiguities and contradictions they live in their quotidian lives. Not only in children, but also in adults as teachers and parents, we can see some ambivalences in the way they talk about gender and how gender is produced in school and at home, showing us many possibilities of performing and representing gender, even combining logics that may appear as antagonist.