The perks and pitfalls of conformity: unravelling the role of gender conformity in friendship satisfaction among adolescents.

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During adolescence young people not only strongly compare themselves with each other, they also monitor and judge each other based on gender norms. Therefore, this article focuses on the interpersonal dynamics of gender conformity among adolescents. The central research question is whether adolescents conform to gender norms in order to ‘fit in’? First, we study how adolescents come to internalise (pressure for gender conformity from oneself) and externalise gender norms (behaving in gender typical ways). Second, we assess the potential social benefits of gender conformity by studying the association between satisfaction with friendships and different aspects of gender conformity. Multi-group structural equation modelling was used to assess differences between adolescent girls (n = 631) and boys (n = 633) in Belgium (Mage = 19.52). Benevolent sexism predicted adolescents’ internalisation and externalisation of gender norms. For boys, the pressure for gender conformity from others predicted the externalisation of gender norms. In general, adolescents benefited from higher satisfaction with friendships when they endorsed benevolent sexism and translated normative pressures into gender typical behaviours. Our findings urge for increasing awareness to recognize subtle manifestations of sexism and to reduce the pressure young people experience to conform to gender norms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-558
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number4
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2023

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  • Adolescents
  • gender identity
  • gender conformity
  • benevolent sexism
  • hostile sexism
  • Pressure for gender conformity


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