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Gender Roles and Socialization in Adolescence

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From Girl to Woman:

Gender Roles and Socialization in Adolescence

Reviving Ophelia: A Brief Overview

Adolescence is one of the most difficult times for development. This difficulty is experienced very differently for boys and girls. This paper will examine how gender role socialization effects girls more specifically, the emergence of eating disorders and depression in adolescent girls.

Mary Pipher, Ph.D. in her book "Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls", discusses extensively the varied and difficult road that adolescent girls travel to adulthood. This book is a collection of Pipher's experiences with clients, her daughter, and her own adolescence as well as a thought provoking social examination. The title refers to William Shakesphere's character Ophelia, the young girl who drowned herself in a river after being shunned by Hamlet. Ophelia is the epitome of lost female youth. The transition that happens from girl to woman is quite difficult for most.

Pipher examines the loss of self that most girls experience in their adolescence. She brings up the fact that preadolescent girls have the ability to be androgynous, as well as an interest in nearly everything. Gender roles are not limiting at this age, it is their time away from the female gender role. The onset of puberty changes most girls into very confused and ever changing creatures. They go from being carefree to careful of what their every move is. Most adolescent girls are hyper aware of themselves, over analytical of the reactions they receive from others, are critical of their bodies, and they "crash and burn in a social and developmental Bermuda Triangle".

The central question Pipher asks is "why are American adolescent girls falling prey to depression, eating disorders, and suicide attempts at an alarming rate?" There is no easy answer to Pipher's question. Is the problem girls face a product of our culture? Or, is the problem that adolescent girls face a natural part of becoming an adult? Piphers answer is that the problem girls face is both culturally and familial. The American culture is "look obsessed, sexist, and girl poisoning"

Critical Evaluation

It is with great ease and grace that girls are explained out a bit by Pipher. Reported often but rarely examined the phenomena of depression, anger, self hatred, and dysfunction that girls experience in adolescence is really deeply looked at in this book. The writing is clear and inviting. Each chapter examines a different problem that adolescent girls face. From families to depression, sex to drugs and alcohol the hurdles that adolescents encounter are all given quality time in the book. The experiences of her patients are as varied as possible. Yet, each girl has the same problem. They are all suffering their way through adolescence. This book really gives the reader the feeling of that suffering.

Being an adolescent girl is something that is strange and foreign to most people. Women barely remember their adolescence, other then the things they did. Unable to experience life in such an all or nothing way, most mothers of adolescent daughters cannot find ways to connect to their children. This book would defiantly help introduce dialogue that parents can use to re-connect to their daughters. Happy one minute, distraught and angry the next, adolescent girls are hard to communicate with and even harder to understand.

Tying it All Together

In the textbook "Infants and Children: Prenatal Through Middle Childhood" by Laura E. Berk there is a little bit of tie in from Pipher's "Reviving Ophelia" about culture and self esteem. Because of the limits on age in "Infants and Children" Berk just starts the trip into adolescence. There is a section on perspective and how it develops in older children. During middle childhood the abilities to see how others think and feel are first being developed and explored. As children age they become better at being able to "step in another person's shoes". They are developing empathy during middle childhood. This development continues until a child can take the perspective of an impartial third party. Pipher shows that its during this developmental stage when adolescent girls have an imaginary audience. They feel as though the entire world is critically watching everything they do. Girls at this age tend to be embarrassed by the behaviors and activities of their families.

Another phenomena of adolescent girls is the development of eating disorders at younger ages. Pipher argues that body dissatisfaction is a product of culture. It is the culture that forms the ideals of attractive and unattractive. As those ideal body types get smaller and smaller there is more pressure put on girls to achieve smaller and smaller bodies. In the article "Examination of a Model of Multiple Sociocultural Influences on Adolescent Girls' Body Dissatisfaction and Dietary Restraint" by Tracy L. Dunkley she states "Most theories of dieting, body image, and eating disorders assign a major role to sociocultural factors, such as the media. There has been a trend in the media, over several decades, for smaller ideal female body size despite increases in the actual body size of young women. These findings have led to the idea that body dissatisfaction results from the discrepancy between a female's actual body size and an ideal size strongly influenced by images in the media."

It is not just the culture though. Self-esteem is put on trial as children make their way through school. Grades, playmates, achievements academically all work to build or destroy self esteem. Berk states that while "children and adolescents differ in the



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