Measuring gender norms about relationships in early adolescence : results from the global early adolescent study
Authors & affiliation
C Moreau, M Li, Sara De Meyer, Loi Vu Manh, G Guiella, R Acharya, B Bello, B Maina, K Mmari
Introduction: Gender norms are increasingly recognized as drivers of health and wellbeing. While early adolescence constitutes a critical window of development, there is limited understanding about how adolescents perceive gender relations across different cultural settings. This study used a mixed-method approach, grounded in the voices of young people around the world, to construct and test a cross-cultural scale assessing the perceptions of gender norms regulating romantic relationships between boys and girls in early adolescence. Methods: The study draws on the Global Early Adolescent study (GEAS), a study focusing on gender norms and health related outcomes over the course of adolescence in urban poor settings worldwide. In-depth interviews were first conducted among approximately 200 adolescents between 10-14 years in seven sites across 4 continents to identify common scripts guiding romantic relations in early adolescence. These scripts were then transformed into a multidimensional scale. The scale was tested among 120 adolescents in each of 14 GEAS sites, followed by a second pilot among 75 adolescents in six sites. We evaluated the psychometric criteria of each subscale using principal component analysis, and parallel analysis, followed by exploratory factor analysis to guide the selection of a more parsimonious set of items. Results: Results suggested a two-factor structure, consisting of an "adolescent romantic expectations" subscale and a "Sexual Double Standard" subscale. Both subscales yielded high internal validity in each site, with polychoric Cronbach alpha values above 0.70 with the exception of Kinshasa for the adolescent romantic expectations scale (0.64) and Hanoi for the sexual double standard scale (0.61). Conclusion: This study reveals common perceptions of gendered norms about romantic engagement in early adolescence, normative for both sexes, but socially valued for boys while devaluated for girls. The findings illustrate that social hierarchies of power in romantic relationships form early in adolescence, regardless of cultural setting.