Young Adults’ Gender Role Beliefs, Sexual Esteem and Need to Belong

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CONFERENCE: Showcase of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors (SOURCE)

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Grant, Zelphair; Murray, Kelli; Washington, Imani
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We examined gender role perceptions, sexual esteem, and need to belong. Participants were 85 adults with a mean age of 19.0 (SD = 2.1); 52% were Caucasian and 35% were African-American. Participants responded to measures that assessed their gender role beliefs, gender role attitudes, sexual esteem and depression, and need to belong. We also asked participants to rate a list of sexual behaviors for appropriateness. Each behavior was described as being conducted by a man, and then the behavior was described as if the actor were a woman. We found that having non-traditional gender beliefs did not lead to adults being more sexually satisfied. Perhaps adults’ happiness could be better predicted by how well their beliefs match their partners’ beliefs; two people who share the same expectations should experience more sexual compatibility and thus satisfaction. Results also revealed that non-traditional views might relate to unhealthy sexual behaviors, such as sexual preoccupation and acceptance of sexual disrespect. The need to belong was reported by non-heterosexual individuals and those experiencing sexual depression. Non-heterosexual individuals may be experiencing a need to belong because of their minority social status; these adults may feel isolated and desire connection with others at any cost, including disrespect. Feeling isolated may be a contributing factor to the reported levels of sexual depression. Heterosexual individuals, Caucasians, and men expressed more traditional gender beliefs. These groups have all benefited in some way from traditional viewpoints, which may explain their preference for traditional thinking in the context of gender roles.