RESISTING STEREOTYPES: EVALUATIONS OF PEER GROUP EXCLUSION
Mulvey, Kelly Lynn Sara
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Gender stereotypes permeate peer groups, often functioning as the norms, or conventions, which contribute to group identity. Little is known about the conditions under which children will resist the norms of their peer groups, including norms that reflect stereotypic expectations. This study investigated this issue by measuring how children responded to members of their gender groups who disagreed with the group about gender stereotyped aggressive behaviors (female stereotype: relational aggression, male stereotype: physical aggression) as well as about social activities (football and ballet). Social domain theory as well as social identity theory provided the basis for formulating the design and the hypotheses. It was expected that children and adolescents would expect their peers to challenge the group, but that they would be concerned about the consequences of challenging the group in terms of social exclusion. Participants (N = 292, 9-10 and 13-14 years of age) assessed members of same-gender peer groups who disagreed with their group. The findings revealed that children and adolescents generally expected that their peers will resist the group's gender stereotypic norms surrounding aggression, but that this may be more difficult for boys when voicing their counter- stereotypic opinions. Further, participants themselves believed that they would be less influenced by gender stereotypes than would their peers. They asserted that they would, individually, be more likely to resist the group than they expect a peer would be. This research also revealed important barriers to resisting the group. Specifically, children and adolescents expected that group members who dissent from or resist the group are likely to be excluded from the group for voicing their dissent. This stands in sharp contrast to much research which indicates that children are not accepting of exclusion. Rejecting the behavior of one's peer group, especially when that behavior has negative intrinsic consequences for others, is a key step towards changing the culture of peer groups more broadly. However, the findings indicate that, while children and adolescents are optimistic about their peers challenging the peer group, they also see exclusion as a very real possibility and consequence for such resistance.