I'm just going with the flow: How group-based dynamics shape gender conformity among adolescents

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis


At least sixty years. That is how many years, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality, it will take to achieve gender equality in Europe if the present rate of change is maintained. Why is gender inequality so persistent? To understand why gender inequalities are both large and persistent, insight must be gained in why boys/men and girls/women (often unconsciously) endorse attitudes, make choices and engage in behaviours that not only accentuate gender differences but also reproduce gender inequalities. Against that background, this dissertation studies to what extent aspects of gender conformity (such as gender identity and gender attitudes) are present among Flemish adolescents (between 10 and 25 years old) and what impact gender conformity has on their social relationships and occupational preferences. This dissertation departs from three important starting points: (1) adolescence is an important formative period when it comes to identity formation and thus also gender development, (2) gender has an intergroup component which invites to consider gender identity as a group identity and (3) gender does not occur in a social vacuum which makes it necessary to study gender differences within groups that differ in terms of social and cultural background. More specifically, this dissertation consists of four empirical studies for which data of the Youth Research Platform is employed. This dissertation illustrates that (social) group mechanisms and the (social) identity processes tied to them are an important factor in understanding gender conformity. Social identities explain why people conform to social norms even though these maintain the status quo. Since people are social beings who want to be surrounded, recognised, appreciated and loved by others, they also tend to conform to social norms. That way, they avoid negative reactions and the risk of not fitting in, which is one of adolescents’ major concerns. Hence, the most attractive option for young people is to simply go with the flow and conform to gender norms, even though this perpetuates gender inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Spruyt, Bram, Supervisor
  • Siongers, Jessy, Supervisor
Award date21 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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