Social anxiety and withdrawal is marked by a continual fear various social. And performance situations. And often occurs in circumstances that could cause embarrassment or humiliation (Kearney, 2013). In relation to youth, many factors contribute to the development and maintenance of anxiety and withdrawal. Factors such as biology, family aspects. And life events may all combine to produce anxiety-based disorders (Kearney, 2013). While many factors play a role in anxiety and withdrawal. Gender expectations regarding child social behavior is a specific variable that should be closely examined. Gender expectations in children vary between male and female, which may ultimately produce strong symptoms of anxiety that foster withdrawal and other anxiety-based disorders. The development of a child's social skills may also be impacted through gender expectations in combination with anxiety-related elements.
As stated by Kearney (2013), behavioral inhibition is a core aspect of social anxiety and withdrawal. Behavioral inhibitions tend to persist and remain with a child with age, which impacts the course of their overall social development. For example, children who are more inhibited tend to be more shy, introverted, and fearful of others early years of development; as development progresses, they are often more hesitant to explore new situations (Kearney, 2013). In turn, aspects of play and peer interaction are affected by behavioral inhibitions, which can cause a child to feel more anxiety in social situations. When gender expectations are added to the mix of inhibition, levels of anxiety may be further elevated. For example, a gender expectation of boys is to spend a lot of time outdoors and in active play. However, a boy who is more inhibited may be more timid and anxious of such situations. As a result, the boy may begin to avoid situations that involve outdoor play because it produces emotions of discomfort and anxiety. Because the boy is not participating in gender expected behavior, he may be rejected by his peers, which further implicates aspects of anxiety, withdrawal, and the development of social skills.
The effects of gender expectations can be seen in the case study of Bradley Mavin, a 12-year- old boy diagnosed with social anxiety. Bradley reported that he often liked to stay indoors and close to the home during his preschool and elementary years (Kearney, 2013). As previously stated, a male behavioral expectation is to spend lots of time outdoors and to participate in physically active and competitive activities. Because Bradley did not like to venture far from the comforts of his home, his opportunities for developing peer relationships were limited. The reduction of peer interaction in Bradley's life ultimately harmed the development of his social skills, as he had few peers to relate and connect with. As a result, Bradley's rejection from fellow peers most likely produced a circular succession of behaviors: Bradley did not participate in gender expected activities, which hindered social skill development and formation of peer relations, which produced a rejection by peers, which further prompted Bradley to avoid social situations and gender expected activities. The effects created by this cycle of behaviors most likely increased over time, which could further exaggerate social anxiety and withdrawal.
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As explained in the case of Bradley, it is apparent that gender expectations can impact the development of a child's social skills based on their behavior. While many expectations exist for sexes to participate in specific events (i.e. boys in outdoor play; girls in feminine, domestic play), there are also several activities considered "off limits" for boys and girls. Participation in off limit activities can impact the development of a child's social skills as well due to its unexpected attribute. For example, boys are typically expected to play with "masculine" toys, such as toy trucks and other forms of transportation. Girls are typically expected to play with "feminine" toys, such as dolls. However, girls are likely to play with masculine toys in addition to feminine toys, which is generally accepted. Conversely, boys are expected to stick with "masculine" toys and not play with "feminine" toys, creating a stronger constraint and gender expectation. Even though the "off limits" activities for boys may be stronger than girls, in both sexes, it is still expected that a gender primarily engage in activities specific to their sex.
In conclusion, gender expectations create limitations on what is "acceptable" for a child's social behavior. When gender expectations are not met, a child may be faced with peer rejection, low self-esteem, and insecurity. These effects may ultimately harm the development of social skills, especially in the presence of social anxiety and withdrawal, which further delays the honing of social skill development.
Gender expectations in girls can affect the development of social skills as well, such as in the expectation of toy selection. Girls are typically expected to choose more "feminine" toys, such as dolls, and spend less time outdoors than boys.
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