Did you know that gender stereotyping has a lasting impact on children? In a new research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found a link between gender-specific expectations and mental health issues such as violence, depression, and suicide among young children.

The findings were based on the latest study, which was conducted through the collaboration of Johns Hopkins University in the United States and the World Health Organization (WHO). Gender Stereotypes are more than just related to colors, where 'pink' is for girls and blue equates to boys.

According to MarketWatch, children in 16 different countries across the globe believed that girls are “vulnerable and nurturing.”

Boys, on the other hand, believed that they should be “strong and independent.” The nations included in the study were Vietnam, China, India, South Africa, Bolivia, Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Ecuador, Scotland, Nigeria, Egypt and the United States.

Globally pervasive

Gender-specific roles are primarily learned at home and from the parents, according to the study author and Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute director Robert Blum.

That is why it’s no longer surprising that gender stereotypes remain “globally pervasive,” in which males are taught to be “aggressors in romantic and sexual relationships.”

These myths, however, have lasting impacts in children. Among the effects are increasing rates of school dropouts among girls, child marriage, HIV and other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), early pregnancy and physical and sexual violence.

Negative effects and social problems

Gender stereotypes do not only affect girls. In fact, boys also receive negative consequences that push them to engage in harmful activities like alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking and engaging in interpersonal violence. Boys are also vulnerable to bullying and getting beaten for “not conforming to stereotypical masculine roles.”

Girls, on the other hand, are affected by the so-called gender “straitjacket.” The study highlighted that their vulnerability and physical appearance are associated with their subservience.

They also often fell victim to abuse and gender norms violations.

These stereotypes, however, can lead to much bigger social issues or challenges in life. This includes interpersonal or relationship violence and gender wage gap (gender equality), which is carried through in the United States.

Mental health

Due to the massive impact of gender norms and values, especially on their mental health, children and young adolescents (ages 10 to 11) are at higher risk of depression, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and suicide. According to Thomson Reuters Foundation, young teens live in a “transitional era” and they are knowledgeable about the gender-related issues around them.

The publication further revealed that the damaging gender-specific expectations are solidified between ages 10 and 14. That’s why starting the intervention efforts at the age of 15 may be too late, Blum said.

Intervention programs

With the recent findings, the researchers suggested that intervention programs that aim to address the gender imbalance in the society should start and could be more useful if implemented for a younger age group. The reason? Johns Hopkins department of public health professor Kristin Mmari explained that “adolescent health risks” are formed by behaviors entrenched in gender roles, Time reported.

Mmari added that these conducts become “well-established” when they reach the age of 10 or 11. Mmari also stressed that these gender-specific norms and values are psychologically irksome and disturbing for young children and adolescents.

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