A stereotype can be defined as a set idea that people have about what someone or something is like, especially a wrong idea. Stereotypes are commonly based on race, gender, culture, religion, groups of individuals etc. Gender stereotypes are preconceived ideas whereby both genders are arbitrarily assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited by their gender. This can limit the development of their natural talents and abilities, as well as their educational and professional experiences and life opportunities in general. A new study called The Global Early Adolescent Study suggests gender stereotyping starts at an early age.

Wrong assumptions

According to Robert Blum, the director of the study, researchers undertook the work because it was wrongly assumed that kids between the ages of 10 and 14 are unfamiliar with any problems related to gender stereotyping and because there was no similar research on young adolescents.

Adolescent-health specialists in this study interviewed 450 children and their parents about gender expectations in a total of 15 high-, low- and middle-income countries. They came to the conclusion that a lot of gender stereotypes have already been internalized by the kids 10-14 years old in all these countries, regardless of whether it’s a conservative or liberal society.

The key finding, however, was that rigidly held gender expectations pose a lifelong health risk.

Myths prevail

Blum claims that the myth that boys are strong and independent and girls weak and vulnerable still stands strong in many societies. Girls are taught to invest time and money in their physical appearance as it is their main asset, according to their surroundings. Moreover, girls are encouraged to stay indoors, learn how to cook and think about their future role of a wife and mother.

Boys, on the other hand, are taught to be physically strong and independent, which can lead to many boys having insecurities and being self-conscious, just like girls. The study suggests such pressure from the society can pose a threat to youngsters’ health and well-being; a lot of them feel a lot of stress and can hurt themselves or others because they don’t meet the expectations or are torn between opposing expectations.

According to Chandra-Mouli of the World Health Organization, the results of the study will be used by the WHO to try to promote and create healthier societies, free of gender stereotypes. They affect the way a person is raised and how they preserve themselves by labeling traits and behaviors as female or male. Gender roles and stereotypes may not seem like much, but the impact that they have will last for many generations to come.