During puberty, girls and boys develop their secondary sexual characteristics. As their physical differences are becoming more pronounced, their psychosocial differences are also increasingly accentuated. Girls
learn from adults, and especially from their peer groups, how to
cultivate an alluring feminitity while boys learn to adopt a “strong”
masculinity that will gain them the approval of their families and
The scripts for appropriate gender role behavior may vary in details
from one society to another, but they all expect females and males to
differ in their behavior. Females begin to dress much differently, to
use different fashion accessories and different hairstyles, to apply
make-up etc. while males usually prefer a more “rugged” appeance, try
to excel in contact sports, or otherwise “prove their manliness” in
some physical way.
One should keep in mind, however, that by no
means all adolescents can or want to live up to these expectations.
There are always quite a few who cannot or will not fit the norm. Some adolecscents partially or totally reject the gender role scripts they are being offered.
In repressive, intolerant cultures, this can lead to fruitless
confrontations and other problems. For example, “tomboys” and “sissies”
may be accused or suspected of “homosexual tendencies”, although, in
reality, this may not be true. After all, as basic aspects of human sexuality,
gender role and sexual orientation are independent of each other.
However, even if the suspicions are true, they cannot justify
discrimination and ostracism. In all cases of gender role difficulties,
therefore, parents, older relatives, and teachers need to be both
patient and supportive. In
the end, the adolescents have to learn to accept themselves as they
“really” are, and this acceptance has to be shared by their social