Unequal gender norms are related to Symptoms of Depression Among Young Adolescents: A Cross-Sectional, Cross-Cultural Study
Koenig, Leah R
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Purpose: This study was undertaken among 10- to 14-year-old girls and boys in disadvantaged areas of Shanghai, China; Cuenca, Ecuador; Flanders, Belgium; and Denpasar and Semarang, Indonesia. It aimed to assess whether gender norms are related to depressive symptomatology, and to examine whether sex differences in depressive symptoms can be explained by differences in gender norm perceptions. Methods: We examined the distributions of depressive symptoms and two gender norms scales, gender stereotypical traits (GST), and sexual double standard (SDS), across sites and by sex. We next assessed crude and adjusted associations between each of the gender norms scales and depressive symptoms. Finally, we conducted path analysis to examine the mediating role of gender perceptions in sex differences in depressive symptoms. Results: Girls reported more depressive symptoms than boys in all sites except Denpasar. SDS perceptions were more unequal among girls in most sites, while GST perceptions were more unequal among boys in all sites except Semarang. Gender-equal SDS and GST perceptions were associated with fewer depressive symptoms, while unequal perceptions were related to more symptoms. Gendered perceptions about traits and relationships appeared to partially mediate relationships between sex and depressive symptoms in Shanghai, Cuenca, and Semarang. Conclusions: Unequal gender norm perceptions were linked to poor mental health among boys and girls, suggesting that gender norms may play a role in psychological wellbeing for adolescents of both sexes. Gender norm perceptions appear to play a role in mental health sex disparities we observed across site.