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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Not Fitting In: The Impact of Gender Atypicality on Middle Schoolers’ Psychosocial Adjustment

  • Author(s): Dhillon Brar, Manpreet
  • Advisor(s): Graham, Sandra
  • et al.

The current study examined self-perceived gender atypicality (i.e., not fitting in with one’s gender) in relation to psychosocial adjustment among ethnically diverse adolescents. A growing body of evidence supports negative associations between self-perceived gender atypicality and gender-based bullying and discrimination (Jewell & Brown, 2014). The goal of the current study was to establish whether gender atypicality predicted loneliness, anxiety, victimization, and gender discrimination and if deviating from one’s own gender and ethnic group norms placed youth at a higher risk. This study addressed a gap in the existing gender atypicality literature; that is, prior work mostly studied white youth (Egan & Perry, 2001) and did not take into account deviation from gender and ethnic ingroup norms. Using an ethnically diverse sample of seventh graders (n = 3,788) from urban middle schools, findings from general linear models documented that gender atypicality (self-perceived and when using the deviation from gender and ethnic ingroup norms) predicted higher negative psychosocial outcomes. These relationships were moderated by ethnicity and gender, following an intersectionality framework, among which White youth were found to be feeling more lonely, anxious, and reported higher frequency of gender based discrimination, when they deviated in gender atypicality from other White youth at their school. Implications for particular adolescents who may be at higher risk of poor adjustment are discussed.

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