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Key Ideas

  • Gender identity and gender role result from two sources-biology and culture-and affect one's identity at all levels and ages.
  • Hormones contribute to feelings of aggression and emotional expression (moodiness) in humans and other animals. It is difficult to separate biological, social, and cultural differences in behavior.
  • Puberty brings physical, emotional, and self-concept changes. We adapt to change to maintain a sense of self and identity.
  • The changes of puberty can create self-consciousness and uncertainty about oneself. Being either a fast or a slow maturer can create both social advantages and disadvantages, which even out by late adolescence.


This section is about how adolescents see themselves. It begins with a discussion of gender, and how gender influences our behavior. Through discussions, students examine gender differences, first in terms of preferences, and then in terms of behavior. Both the influence of culture and the impact of hormones are studied as they relate to gender. Aggression is one of the issues addressed. As a group, students identify concerns felt by boys, concerns felt by girls, and common concerns about the changes that accompany puberty. The desire to be “normal” and the fear of being different are two of the most consistent worries felt by both girls and boys.



\checkmark distinguish between gender identity and gender role.

\checkmark examine gender differences and similarities.

\checkmark analyze the reasons for the differences.

\checkmark discuss perceived gender behavior differences.

\checkmark analyze the reasons for the differences.

\checkmark develop a list of positive behaviors that apply to both sexes.

\checkmark identify the physical, emotional, and social changes of puberty.

\checkmark compare concerns.


aggression, gender, gender identity, gender role, peers, sex-discrimination law, stress

Student Materials

Activity 6-1: Gender Differences

  • Activity Report

Activity 6-2: Behavior Differences

  • Activity Report

Activity 6-3: Who Me-Worry?

  • Activity Report

Teacher Materials

Activity 6-1: Gender Differences

  • None required

Activity 6-2: Behavior Differences

  • Activity Report Answer Key

Activity 6-3: Who Me-Worry?

  • Activity Report Answer Key

Advance Preparation

See Activities 6-1, 6-2, and 6-3 in the student edition.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Language Arts Debate One Mini Activity asks students to compose a letter. Debate and discussion groups help students develop communication skills, and can lead to essay or journal writing.

Social Studies Students can examine the influence of culture in determining gender roles. Also, adaptation plays an important role in the development of cultures as well as individuals.

Background Information

Every society we know of makes certain distinctions between males and females with respect to their sense of themselves and their behaviors, sexual and otherwise.

Why these differences exist is not entirely clear. Both biological and cultural factors appear to be at play, but scientists are not in agreement about how this works. To complicate matters further, what little evidence there is suggests that gender identity seems to be determined by how a person is raised. Yet gender role-behavior, how masculine or feminine a child behaves, seems to be influenced by prenatal, hormonal influences.

The sensible approach here is to maintain an open mind until we know more about these issues, rather than to assert dogmatically that all gender differences are either biologically based or socially constructed.

The issue of difference has already come up several times in this unit, but this section provides yet another opportunity to deal with this important concept.

It is important to help students learn not to equate being average with being normal. Being average is a statistical concept. In reality there is a range of differences that encompass individuals who are normal in the sense of being healthy, without being average.

It also is important to help students learn that being different may be perfectly normal, but may require some adjustment.

Finally, students need to realize that puberty and adolescence are periods of change. There is little point to worrying about what you are going to be like until development is complete. There is little point in judging a batch of half-baked cookies.

Image Attributions




6 , 7 , 8

Date Created:

Feb 23, 2012

Last Modified:

Apr 29, 2014
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