Gender Identity and Roles in Early Adulthood

Gender Identity and Roles in Early Adulthood
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  • 0:43 Gender Identity & Roles
  • 3:08 Gender Roles & Marriage
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

As people age, they begin to think about how their gender affects who they are. Watch this lesson to find out how people construct their gender identity, how society defines gender roles, and how both of these things can impact a marriage.

Early Adulthood

Ben and his wife Sylvie are having some problems. Ben recently lost his job. The good news is that Sylvie makes enough to support them both. The bad news is that Ben is upset because he believes that the man should be the one bringing home the bacon.

Ben and Sylvie are in the period of life known as early adulthood, which lasts from age twenty to forty. Gender is a big part of early adulthood because this is when people first figure out how their gender affects their lives and when they also explore the role of gender in their marriage.

Let's take a closer look at gender identity and gender roles in early adulthood.

Gender Identity and Roles

For most of their childhood and teenage years, many people don't give too much thought to what it means to be a man or a woman. But as they approach and enter early adulthood, many people begin to define what gender means to them.

For example, Ben always knew that he was a boy and that boys were different from girls. And his dad used to tell him that boys don't cry and that girls don't play football. But Ben never really thought much about that stuff; it was just the way things were.

But when he was in college, Ben began to ask himself what it meant to be a man. He began to explore how he felt and thought about gender. He decided that it was okay if a man cried sometimes (like when at a funeral), but that it was still a man's job to protect and provide for his family.

Ben was working out gender identity, which is how someone defines what it means to be a man or a woman. This could include what they do or how they feel or some other part of gender. It's really about what makes someone feel like they belong to their gender. Ben is a man, so his gender identity is really about what makes him feel like a man.

On the other hand, Ben's father (and many like him) have certain expectations about gender roles, which are a set of social and behavioral norms. The way Ben's father believes that boys don't cry is an example of a gender role.

If gender identity and gender roles sound a lot alike to you, that's because they are very similar. In fact, one thing can be a part of both gender roles and gender identity. The biggest difference between the two is that gender identity is self-defined. That is, Ben defines his gender identity for himself. On the other hand, gender roles are socially defined. They are put in place by society at large.

Essentially, gender identity is about who you are, while gender roles are about what is expected of you. Remember these by the words 'identity' and 'roles.' Gender identity is about who you are, which is your identity. Meanwhile, gender roles are about the part (or role) you are expected to play by society.

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