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I Had the Wrong Cooties: The Effect of Nonheterosexuality

on Childhood Gender Segregation

Thomas Cole

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Campus

Psychology 3902W

March 22, 2011

Dr. Caprice Niccoli-Waller



While the concept of childhood gender segregation is well established in the field of psychology,

many areas of interest within the concept remain under-researched. This study examines what

childhood gender segregation consists of and what effects its development, and is contrasted with

dissenting views on the causes of childhood gender segregation. An additional analysis of the

sociocultural effect of sexual orientation in childhood development also provides an interesting

angle in which to view this phenomenon, as a comparison of the two seemingly disparate

concepts highlight that the early developmental stages of nonheterosexuality produce a markedly

different experience of gender segregation among children than what is currently considered

normal. Children who exhibit symptoms of what could be classified as Gender Identity Disorder

(GID) are often caught in a social crossfire, leading to a peer enforced migration from the same

sex group to the opposite sex group. Additional research into this topic is suggested through the

use of longitudinal studies and carefully constructed recollection surveys of nonheterosexual


Keywords: gender segregation, gender identity disorder, early childhood, nonheterosexuality


I Had the Wrong Cooties: The Effect of Nonheterosexuality on Childhood Gender Segregation

The sounds and sights of children at play often belie the complex and structured

framework of their social network. The idea that social interaction for children can be just as

nuanced and subtle as it is for adults is one which often is overlooked due to the almost deceptive

nature of the simplicity of childhood. However, developmentally, from the ages of four to ten is

when children learn the rules of social engagement that will form the structure in which they

interact with others throughout the rest of their lives (Maccoby, 1990). During this crucial phase,

we learn the rules and boundaries of how to interact with others, what is appropriate, and more

importantly, what is not appropriate. The well established and interdisciplinary concept of

gender segregation is perhaps the largest influence on how we learn to interact; this concept has

been well established by many, many years of research by psychologists, psychiatrists,

sociologists and others (Aydt & Cosaro, 2003; Bukowski, Gauze, Hoza, & Newcomb, 1993;

Maccoby, 1990; Harkness & Super, 1985; Mehta & Strough, 2010; Pelligrini, Galda, Flor,

Bartini, & Charak, 1997; Pfaff, 2010; Ramsey 1995; Strough & Covatto, 2002).

Gender segregation is the social phenomenon where children voluntarily segregate into

same-sexed social groups and limiting or outright avoiding contact with opposite-sexed peers

(Maccoby, 1990). This resilient phenomenon is somewhat absolute across cultures, and is even

resistant to interference by adults (Aydt & Cosaro, 2003; Harkness & Super, 1985). However,

important differences rise in several key areas; specifically, what if a child feels they do not “fit-

in” with their same-sexed peers?

It is perhaps an effortless endeavor to conjure up the memories from our own childhood

of the “sissy boy” and the “tomgirl”. After all, how could one not recall these social eccentrics?

These two iconic stereotypes of children are deeply ingrained in not only in American culture,

but in cultures across the world as well. Growing up as either is sometimes difficult, more so

for the gender noncomforming male than for the female, due to the overemphasis on the

desirability of masculine traits and the undesirability of feminine traits in the American

sociocultural setting (Gottschalk, 2003). While research into the effects of sexual orientation

during childhood seems to be an impossible task, as sexual identity does not begin to coalesce

until early to mid-adolescence, there are theoretical, though slightly controversial, methods in

which to observe behaviors in children which later manifest as nonheterosexuality (Savin-

Williams & Cohen, 2004).

Gender Identity Disorder (GID) was first introduced in the Diagnostic and Statistical

Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in its third edition, and has persisted through the subsequent

fourth edition, revision of the fourth edition, and is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming fifth

edition. Severe criticism of GID has been noted by professionals from multiple disciplines, with

a major complaint accusing psychiatrists of “subtly reintroducing homosexuality as a mental

illness.” (Gottschalk, 2003, p. 38). GID, however, has stringent criteria for diagnosis, as follows:

There are two components of Gender Identity Disorder, both of which must be present to

make the diagnosis. There must be evidence of a strong and persistent cross-gender

identification, which is the desire to be, or the insistence that one is, of the other sex

(Criterion A). This cross-gender identification must not merely be a desire for any

perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex. There must also be evidence of

persistent discomfort about one's assigned sex or a sense of inappropriateness in the

gender role of that sex (Criterion B). The diagnosis is not made if the individual has a

concurrent physical intersex condition (e.g., partial androgen insensitivity syndrome or

congenital adrenal hyperplasia) (Criterion C). To make the diagnosis, there must be

evidence of clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other

important areas of functioning (Criterion D). (American Psychiatric Association, [DSM-

IV-TR], 2000)

The important aspect of these criteria is that not only must all the criteria be met, but that there

must be evidence of clinically significant distress or impairment in order for it to qualify as a

disorder. Thus, children who display symptoms of GID, but do not qualify for the classification

of the disorder, should not be considered clinically ill. While it is important to acknowledge and

respond to criticisms of this diagnostic tool, it is difficult to ignore the wealth of evidence which

provides a correlation between early childhood symptoms of GID and later nonheterosexuality

(Green, 1985; Rieger, Linsenmeier, Gygax, & Bailey, 2008).

With the establishment of the base elements, the search for connectivity can now begin. I

propose that those who later develop a nonheterosexual identity experience a markedly different

form of gender segregation in early childhood, and that these differences are crucial to both

recognize and respond to in order to ensure the healthy mental and even physical development of

children. Nonheterosexual youth show a consistently higher prevalence of sucidial ideation and

suicide attempts than heterosexual youth across countries, regions, and even time (Saewyc, 2011,

p. 262). While popular awareness of this issue has recently come to the forefront in American

society, and research in this area has recently and rapidly expanded, Saewyc identifies that future

studies should include detailed work on developmental trajectories, in an attempt to be able to

more inclusively support this vulnerable minority (2011, p. 268). As such, further research into

the effects of sexual orientation on childhood gender segregration is not only warranted, but

crucial in meeting the goals of understanding this developmental track.


Girls are Icky: Childhood Gender Segregation

The concept of gender segregation among children, for all practical intents and purposes,

arguably qualifies to be considered a psychological law. Years of research has established that

this phenomenon occurs across all countries and cultures, to varying degrees (Aydt & Cosaro,

2003; Bukowski et al., 1993; Maccoby, 1990; Harkness & Super, 1985; Mehta & Strough, 2010;

Pelligrini et al., 1997; Pfaff, 2010; Ramsey 1995; Strough & Covatto, 2002). It is not an

immutable law, as it is very sensitive to a number of factors such as culture and even time.

However, the basic tenets remain the same: boys and girls separate into same-sex groups for

socialization training (Maccoby, 1990). The most important question is, then, why is it that

children separate, without instruction, to same-sexed groups?

It would seem that there is significant agreement that gender segregation occurs primarily

for the “development of traits, interests, skills, attitudes and behaviors that correspond to

stereotypical masculine and feminine social roles” (Mehta & Strough, 2010, p. 251). In other

words, children divide up into same-sex groups in order to “learn the rules” of how to be a girl or

boy. This development is not the sole factor, as children become sensitive the gender-typed

styles of play that occur in each group. What begins as a grouping for similar interest quickly

turns into a deeply cultural experience, and exposure to the other culture becomes increasingly

alien and difficult. Children do not lose their desire to play with members of the opposite sex,

but due to the social training received in their gender segregated groups the possibility of the

rejection of the overture to play with one another exponentially increases as children grow older

(Aydt & Cosaro, 2003). It is important to note that the style of play is gender-typed, and not the

actual play activity. Both boys and girls were willing to engage in cross-gendered play, such as

boys playing “house”, or girls roughhousing; the important difference is the social interaction

which takes place between playmates reinforces gender segregation.

Gender segregation is not a militant and absolute separation of the sexes. There are

interesting, and ritualized, exceptions to gender segregation. These factors can greatly alter the

experience of gender segregation, especially in the areas of borderwork and group behavior.

Borderwork is perhaps the most familiar of these mutable concepts, and where the title of this

paper comes from. While there are multiple types of borderwork, for the purposes of this paper

only three will be examined: ritual pollution, invasion, and the more subtle cross-group

discussion (Aydt & Cosaro, 2003). The infamous and nefarious “cooties” are a classic

representation of what ritual pollution borderwork consists of; the act of violating the strict

gender-segregation in order to “infect” members of the other-sexed group, who are in turn teased

by their same-sexed peers. Invasion borderwork is simply an invasion of the other group,

involving mock pursuit by the invader, and mock fear by the invaded group. Cross-group

discussion, however, presents an interesting phenomenon; children engage in group discussions

and joking, but more often reinforce the points of their same-sexed peers while negating the

points of their opposite-sexed peers than not. Borderwork is engaged in by both boys and girls to

varying degrees; the degree of engagement, however, relies more on factors besides sex, such as

culture and class (Aydt & Cosaro, 2003).

Furthermore, it is important to recognize the impact of gender segregation on learning

and cognitive development. Pelligrini et al., makes a strong case that children perform better in

groups consisting of their gender segregated peers than children who are paired with opposite-

sexed partners in literary comprehension exercises (1997). As young children are more likely to

form friendships with same-sexed friends over opposite-sexed friends, at a ratio of as high as

11:1 (as cited in Aydt & Cosaro, 2003, p. 1310), it is interesting to note that not only did friend

dyads produce more literate language in discussion than nonfriend dyads, but they were more

able to resolve conflicts effectively and use constructive emotional language emotional language

(Pelligrini et al., 1997). Gender segregation is, therefore, a useful experience in gaining not only

social knowledge, but in cognitive and emotional development as well.

Gender segregation is not, however, immune to influence by extraneous factors. Culture

plays a large role in gender segregation, even to the point of severely diminishing its occurrence

in other cultures. Aydt and Harkness observed the interactions of Italian children at two different

facilities, and noted some large differences in the experience. In example, Aydt and Cosaro’s

study of Italian children indicated they were less likely to engage in pollution ritual or invasion

borderwork, but far more likely to engage in cross-sexed group discussion and role-playing than

the American children they observed (2003). Likewise, Harkness and Super observed children

in the Kenyan community of Kokwet, where gender segregation among children was virtually

nonexistent (1985). Gender segregation for these children did not occur until adolescence, where

the strength of the experience resembled what children aged three to four experience in Western

culture; however, at adulthood, gender segregation is in full force, with a far stronger exclusivity

being present among adults. Harkness and Super, however, posit an interesting point in just

exactly why the experience of gender segregation is so different for the Kipsigis children of

Kokwet: “Just when and how such gender segregation appears is the joint product of the

individual and the culturally constructed niche.” (1985, p. 223). For the Kipsigis children, the

lesser need for supervision and the assignment of substantial household duties comes at the age

of six, while in Western culture these sorts of responsibilities come at a far later age, in early

adolescence (Harkness & Super 1985). So, while the experience of gender segregation may

come at different times and severity for other cultures, the concept is still applicable, and more

importantly, mutable.

Another area in which gender segregation displays its mutability is in the social construct

of class. Social class is as large of a factor as, if not larger than, culture, as can be seen by the

examination of class in both American and German children. In Pfaff’s exhaustive analysis of a

group of upper and lower class dyads, the conclusion was reached that lower class children

segregate later, less rigidly, and for a shorter duration than upper class children (2010).

Interestingly enough, the rigidity of gender segregation in upper class children is of particular

importance; upper class girls were far more likely to assign negative qualities to boys, such as

lower cognitive development and even mental impairment, than lower class girls were (Pfaff

2010). Conversely, Aydt and Corsaro found the exact opposite to occur in American children.

Their observation of lower class African-American children, compared to middle to upper class

white children, showed that the divisions of gender were far more strict in the lower class than in

the upper class, among both boys and girls (2003). So, while culture plays an important affect,

as these studies reinforce, social class can also provide a confounding factor to the normal

expectation of gender segregation.

Context and time can also greatly influence the degree and scope of gender segregation.

The majority of research into gender segregation occurs in school or school-like settings, as it is

perhaps the most amenable setting to observation. However in other disparate settings, such as

summer camp and in neighborhood play, gender segregation remains in effect at the same and

slightly lesser frequencies, respectively (Strough & Covatto, 2002). Context is chosen as a

variable for gender segregation over setting, as it is less about the physical location as it is the

group size; larger groups will result in more gender segregation than small groups (Maccoby

1990; Strough & Covatto, 2002). Time, however, has a far more interesting effect on gender

segregation, as it both increases and decreases the strength of the effect. In essence, the effect of

time on gender segregation over the course of early childhood (ages 3 to 6), middle childhood

(ages 6 to 9), preadolescence (ages 9 to 12), adolescence (ages 12 to 15), and late adolescence

(ages 15 to 18) is comparable to a sine wave or bell curve; it gradually increases, peaks, and then

gradually decreases (Strough & Covatto, 2002). In a more indepth analysis, Ramsey examined

the strength of gender segregation among preschool children over the course of a year (1995).

The findings of this study complement Strough & Covatto’s findings by displaying the rise in

tendency towards same-sex peer acceptance and cross-sex peer rejection.

Gender segregation is, by all accounts, a factor that is fairly malleable in scope and shape,

but still retains a consistently generalized and recognizable effect. The mutable properties

possessed by gender segregation make it susceptible to other factors which effect development,

including later nonheterosexuality. However, before a link can be established between these two

seemingly unrelated factors, the developmental roots of nonheterosexuality must be explored.

I Know I Am Different: Pre-Nonheterosexuality in Children

Perhaps one of the most common ways to used by adults in recollection exercises to

describe their nonheterosexuality, especially during childhood and adolescence, is a feeling of

“difference” (Gottschalk, 2003; Savin-Williams & Cohen, 2004). This feeling of difference

often leads to rejection and suppression of homoerotic feelings in an attempt to become

“normal,” because the difference between their feelings and those of their peers are often

dramatically different (Savin-Williams & Cohen, 2004). The most palpable of these differences

are often described as, in the context of this paper, a breech in the rules of gender segregation.

Little boys who avoid roughhousing, like playing with dolls, or even pretend to be girls are often

ostracized by their same-sex peer group, and seek solace and companionship within the confines

of the cross-sex peer group. However, little girls who prefer more masculine activities, dress and

behaviors often experience a lesser degree, if any, of rejection from either peer group. This

fluidity for girls, and rigidity for boys, is attributed to the overemphasis on the desirability of

masculine qualities in American culture (Gottschalk, 2003). Likewise, these behaviors and

mannerisms are also considered to be symptoms of GID ([DSM-IV-TR], 2000); Gottschalk

rejects both the notion of GID as a useful diagnostic and realistic social construct, and cites that

recollection exercises which confirm the correlation between GID and later nonheterosexuality

are the result of cultural training (2003).

However, longitudinal studies and double-blind behavior coding show that symptoms of

GID usually result in the later development of a nonheterosexual identity. In his longitudinal

study of 44 boys who exhibited symptoms of GID, Green identified and observed children in

early childhood, middle childhood, and pre-adolescence, and then followed up with observations

of these same children in early to late adolescence and early adulthood. In his findings, 68% of

the boys who exhibited symptoms of GID later exhibited nonheterosexual ideations and/or

behaviors (1985). Likewise, Rieger et al. conducted a rather novel and exciting observational

study in which adult men with access to home videos of themselves during childhood and

adolescence (ages 0 to 15) were asked to recall their behaviors and rate their degree of gender

nonconformity. The results of this study was that self-reports of gender nonconformity was

generally confirmed by the ratings given by coders (Rieger et al., 2008). The significance of

these studies is fairly large; not only are symptoms of GID a reliable measure of later onset

nonheterosexuality, but self-reporting through recollection is also generally reliable. It is also of

interest to note that:


More gender-nonconforming children tended to become more gender-nonconforming

adults… In addition, gender-nonconforming individuals did not report that their parents

or peers were especially tolerant; to the contrary, they recalled increased childhood

rejection, probably especially from peers, compared with gender-conforming individuals

(Rieger et al., 2008).

With this in mind, the pieces of the puzzle are coming into place; children with symptoms of

GID not only exhibit cross-sex behaviors, but they are ostracized by their peers because of it.

The effects on the individual of this social ostracism are both immediate and with long-

reaching consequence. While the ostracism is generally limited to verbal abuse during

childhood, by adolescence the frequency and severity increases. In his 1987 study, Remafedi

(1987) found that 30% of his bisexual and gay adolescent sample reported being physically

abused by peers, and 50% reported being verbally abused by peers (cited in Landolt et al., 2004,

p. 119). Due to the abuse, and as a reaction to social pressure, most men “defeminize” by

adulthood. The long term effects, however, manifest in relationship attachment issues in

adulthood; peer and paternal rejection were predicative of both anxiety and avoidance in this

circumstance (Landolt et al., 2004). Other long term issues resulting from early peer and

parental rejection include depression, attempts at suicide, substance abuse, risky sexual

behaviors, and exposure to violence and harassment (Saewyc, 2011).

It is also unfortunate that understanding the minutiae of nonheterosexuality appears to be

lacking in the clinical community (Savin-Williams & Cohen, 2004). The lack of research into

different developmental trajectories has often lead clinicians to propose a singular “alternative”

track to nonheterosexual development; Savin-Williams makes the incredible point that no one

would dare suggest there was a singular trajectory for heterosexual development (2004, p. 531).

Sexuality in general is comprised of three elements: Sexual orientation, sexual identity, and

sexual behavior. Of these three, it is highly unusual for either sexual identity or sexual behavior

to manifest prior to adolescence, but Savin-Williams posits that sexual orientation is either

acquired during fetal development, or at the very latest, within the first five years of life (2004).

Sexual orientation, then, “refers to the preponderance of erotic feelings, thoughts, and fantasies

that one has for members of a particular sex, multiple sexes, or no sex,” and sexual identity is

“(the act of self-labeling) involves assuming a socially-recognized label that names sexual

feelings, attractions, and behaviors and is symbolized by such statements as ‘I am gay’ and ‘I am

straight.’ (Savin-Williams & Cohen, 2004). Naturally, sexual behavior is simply the act of

having sex. Savin-Williams provides exhaustive research to support his claim of sexual

orientation developing within the first five years of life, covering a wide spectrum of biological

support for the intractability of sexual orientation (2004, pp. 533-536); of interest here is that

sexual orientation is developed at the onset of gender segregation.

The construction of gender is essential to the social development of children. By as early

as 30 months, children can accurately identify their gender, and by ages 6-7, are fully capable of

identifying themselves and others as male or female, understanding that gender remains stable

over time, and that gender is consistent and is not altered by superficial changes (Halim & Ruble,

2010). The complexity of gender identity, however, is key to understanding how it can act as a

variable in gender segregation; not only is gender identity multidimensional, but its components

can also be altered by gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation (Halim & Ruble, 2010). This

alterability of gender identity raises the interesting notion that gender identity formation could

also be influenced by gender segregation. Gender stereotyping is also a cognitive concept that

develops alongside gender identity in children. The ability to make categorical assignments of

behaviors to either male or female provide the framework within which children are able to

determine what actions are appropriate and which are not. Likewise, gender stereotyping can be

applied both externally and internally, which can in turn create conflict. This conflict can have

deep implications in development, as both gender identity and stereotyping can effect a plethora

of cognitive processes, including attention, memory, behavior, preference, self esteem and social

interaction (Halim & Ruble, 2010).

The establishment of gender identity formation as having influence over nearly every

aspect of social interaction within childhood further reinforces the theory that the experience of

gender segregation is affected as well. Children who display symptoms of GID face ostracism

from their peers while trying to cope with their development of social skills. So, then, what is

the experience of a child who does not gender conform?

Stranger in a Strange Land: Making Sense of It All

While little research has investigated the association of gender segregation and sexual

orientation (Mehta & Strough, 2010), the foundations for discussion and proposal of further

research exists quite clearly in current literature. The experience of children who are unpopular

with their same sex-peers is a topic that has been covered by research before:

Ladd (1983) reported that among third- and fourth-grade children, contact with the other-

sex was greatest among children who were unpopular with same-sex peers. Accordingly,

he proposed that, in general, children prefer same-sex peers but that children who have

unsatisfying relationships with same-sex peers will turn to other-sex peers for

opportunities for social interaction. Alternatively, it is conceivable that children who like

other-sex peers may be perceived as being "different" by peers because they deviate from

the "norm" of preferring same-sex peers and will consequently have trouble gaining

acceptance within the same-sex peer group (Bukowski et al., 1993).

When viewed through the context of the ostracism of children who display symptoms of GID,

this sort of shuffling off to the cross-sex peer group, for those who do not fit in, provides

interesting groundwork to discuss the experience of gender segregation for nonheterosexual

children. However, as Bukowski et al. discusses, it has also been found that children who are

most accepted by their same-sex peers also display a high level of acceptance among cross-sex

peers. The findings of Bukowski et al.’s study, however, only showed support for Ladd’s

position, but arrived at a different conclusion: acceptance by other-sexed peers is more reliant on

whether other-sexed peers like the child, not the other way around. The child’s liking for other-

sexed peers is indeed a factor, but acceptance by the cross-group can override an individual’s

preferences for social interaction (1993).

This particular alternative experience, or trajectory if you will, of gender segregation

continues through adolescence, and even into adulthood. Considerably like the intensity that

occurs for heterosexual individuals, the experience of gender segregations coalesces into an

almost strict group contact by adolescence. As Mehta and Strough conclude, not only does

gender segregation reinforce itself through interaction within the group dyads, it is also

reinforced through resistance to violation by the opposite group (2010). Of interesting

exception, however, is the proposed cultural effect of emphasis on the value of personal

achievement, such as the United States; children are less likely to adhere to the rules of gender

segregation when presented with a goal that must be achieved through teamwork (2010, p. 260).

This particular exception would be one of the very few factors that is capable of suppressing the

innate desire among children for gender segregation, where even factors such as direct adult

intervention fail.

Social interaction for pre-nonheterosexual children can prove to be a strenuous and

frustrating activity, and one that can permanently alter the framework for social interaction. It

stands to reason that the desire to join same-sex social groups exists in pre-nonheterosexual

children, but is prevented by rejection from the group, causing these children to learn

socialization, mannerisms and behaviors in a fashion that must seem both strange and

comforting; strange, due to the tendency for children to group together based on sex, and

comforting because of the better compatibility of interests and social interaction. Importantly,

however, it should not be deduced from any of this discussion that nonheterosexuality is caused

by rejection from the same-sex peer group; it would be far more appropriate to suggest that

rejection from the same-sex peer group is caused by filtered and interpreted information from

adult culture. As Aydt and Cosaro discuss, “Children’s concepts of sex appropriate play are

certainly influenced by the adult culture. However, children creatively interpret adult information

to form their own peer cultures, which are different from what adults might expect.” (2003, p.

1311). The prevalence of homophobia and rejection of gender noncomformity within a culture

could be passed on as an implicit or explicit bias; children are capable of displaying varying

levels of both types in the terms of race (Halim & Ruble, 2010).


Research into the effect of sexual orientation on gender segregation and its effects is a

topic that is sparsely covered in current research. Given the establishment of the existence of

different developmental trajectories for nonheterosexual individuals (Savin-Williams & Cohen,

2004), this area of research is vital to the understanding of how to combat the vulnerabilities in

the “lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer” (LGBTQ) community. These vulnerabilities are a

clear and present danger to the healthy development of LGBTQ youth, as they exhibit

statistically higher risks across multiple facets of health disparities among children and

adolescents (Saewyc, 2011). There are a number of interesting anomalies within the LGBTQ

youth community that warrant exploration as well; the resilience to these disparities in spite of

the lack of traditional social support, such as family connectedness, peer support, school

connectedness and religiosity remains largely unexplored (Saewyc, 2011).

As the capstone to my studies into psychology, this research was validating for me in a

personal way, as I had previously explored this area in undergraduate research for a course in

social psychology. I conducted a rudimentary recollection experiment on adults of all

orientations, asking them to describe their experiences of gender segregation and analysis of

personal gender nonconformity. While my sample size for homosexual and bisexual identified

individuals was smaller than I was comfortable with, my research showed that homosexual males

were more closely aligned with heterosexual females in both mannerisms and preferred social

groups, with homosexual females remaining more or less congruent with heterosexual females as

well. With only 8 participants that identified as bisexual, I considered the information on

bisexuals to be less general; however, they also matched predicted expectations from other

research into the area (Cole, 2006).

This work should not be seen, as a breakthrough in the area of gender segregation and

nonheterosexuality. As Staonvich writes, “in areas of pressing social concern, it is wise to

remember that the answers to these problems emerge only slowly, after the amalgamation of the

results from many different experiments” (Stanovich, 2007, p. 130). This gradual synthesis of

works spanning several decades instead allows for a more thorough approach to the problem, and

will result in a much more detailed answer to the question. With this in mind, I strongly agree

with Saewyc and Mehta and Strough’s conclusions that this area is in need of further research

(2011; 2010). Given the success of longitudinal studies (Green, 1985) and the reliability of

recollection exercises (Rieger et al., 2008), both avenues of research would be highly fruitful in

expanding the understanding of how nonheterosexuality has an impact on both gender

segregation and the developmental process in general.

This research is not without obstacles, however. The resources required to canvass and

identify potential children who display symptoms of GID, and the expense of a longitudinal

study itself present a great obstacle alone. Of further difficulty, however, is the shift away from

the traditionally accepted “three-option” sexuality (Savin-Williams & Cohen, 2004; Mehta &

Strough, 2010; Saewyc, 2011). In his seminal work, Kinsey suggested that the traditionally

accepted three-option sexuality was inadequate to describe the fluidity of sexuality, and instead

opted for a sliding seven point scale of gradual change. With 0 as exclusively heterosexual, 3 as

bisexual, and 6 as exclusively homosexual, there is far more room for variance on the Kinsey

scale, which in turns more accurately reflects sexuality (Kinsey et al., 1998). The usefulness of

this diagnostic tool is, unfortunately, somewhat outweighed by the general cultural unfamiliarity

and complication of explanation; while the labels of heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual are

still considered adequate labels among LGBTQ youth, there is a growing trend among these

same youth to reject these labels in favor of a plethora of other labels which are far less socially

defined (Saewyc, 2011). Lastly, feminist theory completely rejects the tying of sexuality to

gender due to the reasoning that a “correct” way to be male or female is nothing more than a

social construct, and has no biological basis (Gottschalk, 2003).


Given the relatively pristine slate this particular area has, the social need it can fill, and

the obstacles present, further research into this area presents exciting and exhilarating

possibilities. Moreno articulated the need for this research succinctly:

Another tragic insufficiency of man is his failure to produce a well integrated society.

The difference between the social structure in which he functions and the psychological

structure which is an expression of his organic choice and the tension arising between the

two constantly threaten to disrupt the social machinery so painfully built up by him

(1934, p. 366).

The unintegrated social development experience of nonheterosexual youth is something, with

proper research into and dissemination of interventional techniques, that can be avoided entirely.

After all, having the wrong cooties should not be as big of an issue as it currently is.


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