Early Childhood Socialization and Mental Health: A Gendered Perspective

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:18
Oral Presentation
Ameera ALI, York University, Canada
Early childhood experiences have deep, instantaneous and long lasting biological, psychological and social effects upon one’s health throughout the lifespan (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010). Early childhood development, particularly in terms of gender socialization is a key determinant of one’s overall health status. Yet, mental health is still a largely unobserved area in childhood studies. In my paper, I will explore various agents of socialization (education, family, media) pertaining to childhood and adolescent development. More specifically, I will discuss their role in perpetuating discursive notions of propriety in relation to gendered expectations as they relate to children’s and adolescent’s mental health. I emphasize my focus on gender identity development considering that the identity construction process in childhood is instrumental in one’s development since this is when they are initially beginning to understand themselves as autonomous beings (Banse et al, 2010), which plays a role in their mental health development. Identity politics are salient to discussions around mental health as an individual’s identity and sense of self possesses a profound influence on their mental health and overall well-being. I consider how rigid conceptualizations of gender propriety restrict notions of the ‘self’ and thus pose particular challenges to the mental well-being of children. I examine implications of gender socialization in terms of identity development, emotion expression, peer acceptance, self-esteem, marginalization, oppression, stigmatization, depression, substance abuse, and coping strategies, as they relate to mental health. Through a comprehensive exploration of childhood socialization and development from a gendered lens, I will elicit how the period of early childhood sets the foundation for (and intersects with) many other social determinants of health including: social exclusion, education, race, and disability.