Using the unit readings and at least one other current research article on adolescents, describe the similarities and differences that emerge between genders in their social and emotional development with respect to moral development in general or with respect to gender identification in particular.
Adolescence is a critical period of development, characterized by significant social and emotional changes. During this phase, individuals experience a heightened awareness of their social surroundings and begin to form their identity, which can include aspects of moral development and gender identification. Understanding the similarities and differences between genders in these aspects is crucial for comprehending the complexity of adolescent development. This essay aims to discuss the similarities and differences in social and emotional development regarding moral development and gender identification among adolescents.
Research has shown that both male and female adolescents undergo similar processes in moral development. According to the cognitive-developmental theory proposed by Lawrence Kohlberg, moral development progresses through distinct stages. Kohlberg’s theory suggests that during adolescence, individuals reach the postconventional stage, characterized by the development of abstract reasoning and the ability to consider moral issues from multiple perspectives (Kohlberg, 1984). Both males and females follow this overarching framework, suggesting similar cognitive abilities in moral reasoning.
Furthermore, research has highlighted the importance of family and peer relationships in shaping moral development during adolescence for both genders. Studies have found that adolescents who experience positive parenting practices, such as parental warmth and responsiveness, have higher levels of moral reasoning (Carlo et al., 2003). Similarly, positive peer relationships, characterized by trust and mutual respect, have been associated with higher levels of moral development (Eisenberg et al., 2006). These findings suggest that both genders are influenced by similar social factors in their moral development.
However, despite these similarities, some differences emerge between genders in social and emotional development with respect to moral development. One such difference is related to the nature of moral reasoning. Research suggests that females tend to emphasize care and interpersonal relationships more than males, who often prioritize justice and rule-based morality (Gilligan, 1982; Eisenberg et al., 2006). These gender differences in moral reasoning have been attributed to socialization processes, wherein females are socialized to value empathy and caring, while males are socialized to prioritize justice and fairness.
Moreover, gender differences in socialization also impact the development of prosocial behavior during adolescence. Prosocial behaviors, such as sharing and helping others, play a vital role in moral development (Eisenberg, 2006). Research has consistently found that females display higher levels of prosocial behavior compared to males (Eisenberg et al., 2006). This gender difference is thought to stem from socialization practices that encourage nurturing and caregiving behaviors in females.
In addition to moral development, gender identification is another crucial aspect of social and emotional development during adolescence. Gender identification refers to the process of understanding and aligning oneself with the cultural expectations and norms associated with being male or female. Research suggests that gender identity formation involves a complex interplay between biological, psychological, and social factors.
During adolescence, individuals explore and experiment with their gender identity, which can result in gender role flexibility. Girls may engage in traditionally masculine activities, and boys may participate in traditionally feminine activities as they navigate their gender identity (Eccles, Barber, & Jozefowicz, 1999). This period of exploration allows adolescents to understand their own gender identity while challenging societal gender norms.
However, despite this flexibility, research has shown that gender differences in gender identity development do exist. Studies have consistently found that females tend to have a stronger gender identity than males and display more stereotypical gender behaviors (Leaper, Anderson, & Sanders, 1998). This difference may be attributed to societal expectations and gender socialization, which can reinforce gender roles and norms.
To summarize, while adolescents of both genders go through similar processes of moral development and gender identification, some differences emerge. Males and females display differences in the emphasis they place on care versus justice in moral reasoning and in levels of prosocial behavior. Additionally, gender differences in the strength of gender identity and adherence to gender roles are also observed. Understanding these similarities and differences is crucial for recognizing the intricate dynamics of gendered social and emotional development during adolescence. Further research is needed to investigate the underlying mechanisms driving these gender differences and their implications for overall adolescent development.