Culturally enforced gender norms have a high probability of leading to a prolonged period of misery in teenagers and must be dealt with at the early adolescence stage. These were the findings of a research titled “The impact of gender norms on adolescents” which was carried out in Botswana over a period of ten years and is due for publishing in a Journal in August this year.
The main purpose of the research was to identify transitions into adolescence with a spotlight on struggles, opportunities, and contrasts between young people’s social discourses as they grow up.
Tlhalefo Mothelesi who was involved in the study since the beginning told Arts & Society that “Gender norms and beliefs have repercussion for adolescents. The effect for teens, particularly girls in the developing countries involves pregnancy, child marriages, early school leaving, HIV and STI risk, depression and exposure to violence,” adding that as youth grow up they engage with and create their own gender-based understandings of what it means to be a boy or a girl.
The study Journal involved numerous investigations in both rural and urban settings and also included far-reaching interviews with young people and their parents. Part of the report states that the study “examines how gender norms are created in adolescence, and how they ultimately lead youth to sexual and other health related risks.”
Amongst other things, Mothelesi says over the years considerable attention and studies had 15-19-year olds as the focal of attention, and as a result overlooked adolescents between the ages of ten and 14 years. “Such approaches are challenging because they neglect the needs of younger adolescents who experience most threats and problems related to unhealthy behaviours such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,” he says.
The study also found out that boys in their puberty are regarded as predators while the girls are viewed as at risk and potential victims. Such norms make boys partake in physical violence to a larger extent than girls, resulting in boys being more susceptible to unintended injuries and being more exposed to substance abuse and suicide.
In their recommendations the report says “policymakers must come up with concrete gender policies that promote the growth of teenagers and ensure that cultural values and norms help nurture the development of children and shelter them from abuse.”