As a human being grows through the stages of childhood and young adulthood, he or she develops identities. These identities define the position of the individual in the society. Social status, personal identity, and gender identity are some of the forms of identity that are developed within the growth period at the beginning of human life. Hutchison discusses gender identity at length in the book, “Dimensions of Human Behavior”, and defines the process of developing gender identity.
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Distinctive gender identity develops at adolescence when sexual differentiation takes place. A child identifies with a certain gender and is conscious of other people of similar gender. An individual at this stage categorizes other people according to their gender.
Depending on culture, gender identification may heavily rely on the roles of the respective genders. While all cultures identify people as men or women, some cultures put considerable emphasis on the role of respective genders. This influences an individual’s perspective on the issue of gender. However, all cultures have some distinct definition of roles of different genders (Hutchison 238).
Currently there is a gradual shift of understanding of gender roles in modern societies. The distinct and rigid definition of gender role is slowly becoming more malleable and open to change. This does not mean that the biological definition of gender is changing, but the roles that define gender are continuously changing in a more complex society (Hutchison 174). Due to the pressure of obligations in the modern society, there is a tendency for individuals to deviate from the roles that culture defines so strictly.
People adopt new methodologies of keeping in line with culture, and at the same time dealing with compelling obligations. This makes gender identity through roles of an individual a difficult task. Since some societies put less emphasis on roles as a way of identifying a certain gender, individuals from these communities experience a culture shock when they interact with other societies that have distinct gender roles (Hutchison 154).
The complexity of gender identity emerges where there is a growing realization that biological differentiation may not distinctly define gender in an individual. An individual with an ill-defined biological gender orientation will have some difficulty in identifying the proper role that he or she should assume. Self-esteem of an individual may be affected by the relationship between his or her personal attributes and gender (Hutchison 237).
Several other theories describe identity development. It is difficult to establish the theory that is most appropriate for development of the identity of an individual. The theories depend on the culture and beliefs of the particular society in which the individual lives.
The afro centric theory defines collective groups rather than personal identities (Hutchison 194). In this theory, an individual has a single identity, which is assumed by people of the same gender, and with similar roles as the individual in the society. This approach contrasts with western theories that are more liberal, and allow some variations in definition of gender and identity development.
Social theory defines a situation where a person’s identity is influenced by a society’s existing culture. This theory presents a complex and continuous process of identity development, which depends on the age of the individual. Age is an important factor since it determines the people interacting with the individual at any particular moment (Hutchison 287).
The issue of personal identity is a complex issue, and is poorly understood by many people. Identity development depends on factors in the environment, as well as the biological and anatomical formation of an individual. While many people define identity and gender by observation of anatomical features, it is evident that there are many factors that determine the course of identity development, with gender being the primary basis on which ideas concerning identity are built.
Hutchison, Elizabeth D.. Dimensions of human behavior. 4th ed. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2011. Print.