How are Children and Adolescents Affected by Religious Backgrounds?

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“Adolescents health risks are shaped by behaviors rooted in gender roles that can be well-established in kids by the time they are ten or eleven years old” (qtd. in Luscombe). For girls and boys alike, these could cause cognitive irregularities that lead to numerous mental disorders associated with depression which can lead to substance and alcohol abuse. In these findings, it is clear there are negative effects conforming to gender stereotypes that begin in children and young adolescents. Additional information by the Global Early Adolescent Study has concluded, “Whether you are child in Baltimore, Beijing, Nairobi or New Delhi, the onset of adolescence triggers a surprisingly common set of rigidly enforced gender expectations that are linked to increased lifelong risks of everything from HIV and depression to violence and suicide” (qtd. in Science Daily).The researchers resulted through this 15-country study that intervention would have to begin in the early stages of development since stereotypes can be deeply rooted as young as ten to fourteen. Religion generates and promotes unconscious gender stereotypes historically and globally for men and women alike with children notably being the most susceptible to indoctrination and harm by gender prejudice.

Gender roles created by stereotypes are very immobile because of religion’s global threshold historically. According to writer and professor of Marist College, Joshua J. mark says, ”every ancient culture practiced some form of religion”(“Religion in the Ancient World”). With that being said, religion has been apart of human civilization since its emergence occuring around 3100 BC with mesopotamia being one the first of the civilizations and also cited as the birthplace of religion. Based on a study conducted by the Pew Research Center it were estimated, “there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion” (“global religious landscape”). The study displays the huge estimation of religious affiliation to this day making it about more than eight in ten people identifying with a religion. It can then be implied the majority of the world and its societies are to be deemed religious and not less since its emergence. A follow up study by the Pew Research Center on the precise percentages of the many religious denominations reports that, “There are about 2.2 billion Christians in the world, 1.6 billion Muslims (followers of Islam), 1 billion Hindus, 500 million Buddhists and around 15 million Jews. In addition, more than 400 million people practice various folk or traditional religions” (Global Religious Landscape). In the study it precisely shows the different type of denominations of people that fill the globe. Throughout time and in current times a proportional amount of countries from many various regions have religion directly implemented into cordenating laws accordingly to religious contexts. This leads to it being illegal to go against or question certain principles. One out of many being gender roles in religious societies. In religious entities throughout time and throughout the world, gender roles are to be dictated by stereotypes which are gender specifically based. The interpretation of gender roles are greatly archaic and have been influenced directly by religion which is the earliest and by far the most paradoxical instrument of mankind.

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Gender inequality in religious societies is prominent in which women mainly but also men face prejudice. According to theologian and college president to Universities of Bristol and Roehampton, Ursula King says, “Many religious teachings and practices, especially scriptural statements, religious rites, beliefs, theological doctrines, institutional offices, and authority structures, are closely intertwined with and patterned by gender differences”(“Gender and Religion” sec. 3). As illustrated by theologian, it is inferred that in nearly all aspects of religion there is some sort of prejudice for women. This hints the numerous different areas of where inequality resides in the structures of religion. Introduced by co authors, Headrick et al. states it as, “ Eve was made for Adam, and also the interpretation that Eve persuaded Adam to eat the fruit (Headrick et al. 1). Reasoning in such a manner is one of the very justifications of stereotypes in creating prejudiced gender roles most notably from doctrines of the abrahamic denominations which account for over 50% of the population. Emphasized by Psychologist of La Trobe University, Beatrice Alba states, “Sexism and misogyny are explicitly woven into the dogma and traditions of all mainstream religions. God is personified as male, and his representatives are male”(“Why we accept it in religion?” Par. 5). Overall, wherever religion is practiced there will be stereotypical gender roles that will continue to encumber as the very people in power make or enforce such representation. Furthermore, the definition of stereotyping by Huntington University professors defines it as, “ stereotyping is the act of assigning to a member of a particular group, a characteristic, or trait based solely on the individuals memberships in that group”(Headrick et al. 1). Therefore stereotyping has led to fixed gender roles that include hyperfemininity for females which is associated with being passive, soft, nurturing and accepting while hypermasculinity for males is associated with being aggressive, incentive, ambitious and demanding. This can relate to many adverse effects. According to the University of Madrid, psychological researchers concluded “specific feminine and masculine gender norms were related to alcohol and tobacco abuse and prevalence of chronic diseases” (“Impact of Gender”). The study gives insight regarding psychological effects on conforming gender norms. These fixed stereotyping leads to unquestionable gender roles that do not allow people to express themselves and their emotions freely.

Religions influence results in early indoctrination of children making them most susceptible to prejudice. According to transhumanist and reporter, Zoltan istvan insists, “ A child’s mind is terribly susceptible to what it hears and sees from parents, family, and social surroundings” (“Illegal to Indoctrinate?”). It can then be said when children are young they believe what they are being told and do not question parents or any other higher authority throughout their lives. In the article “How Children are Indoctrinated”, Author Karen Garst states, “ One of the ways in which this “education” is effective is the child is surrounded by people who reinforce everything that is taught. This meant when a child is surrounded by forces such as religious ones, a child will inevitably conform to a certain norm. A common norm being a certain type of gender role based accordingly on gender. Furthermore, when a child is first born, their brain is in a delicate developmental state until later in life in which this case indoctrination on a set of stereotypes that lead to a fixed gender role is to be one’s faith. According to english professor and author, Auguste Meyrat defines indoctrination, “ to involve pushing a certain opinion, it is also much more. It is the comprehensive effort of passively disseminating a particular viewpoint” (“Indoctrination, No One Noticing”). It is emphasized that indoctrination is much more than teaching a set of beliefs, but instead a mandatory rule of compliance. Within religion this seems to be the case with children commonly as there is no way to rebel without facing some type of scrutiny. As said by PhD neuroscientist of NorthWestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Giovanni Santostasi says, “Religion should remain a private endeavor for adults,” (qtd. in Istvan). In other words, for adults alike this has not been the case. Instead, many people from religious societies and backgrounds are to conform within gender roles which root from childhood indoctrination. Susceptibility of children is an unfortunate inevitable occurrence that is commonly found in religion. This then leads to foundations for prejudice starting the day a child is born being fixated to one way of life based on what gender a new birth is.

Dangerous consequences result from children susceptibility and compliance to fixed gender roles. According an article by UNICEF, “Children start facing norms that define masculine and feminine from an early age. Boys are told not to cry, not to fear, not to be forgiving and instead to be assertive, and strong. Girls on the other hand are asked not to be demanding, to be forgiving and accommodating and ladylike”( “Early Gender Socialization” sec. 3). Essentially children are being forced to abide by rules that hold no conscious meanings, only discriminatory ones. These gender roles have large consequences. According to managing editor of Thing Progress, Tara Culp-Ressler claims, “this constant effort to manage one’s everyday life in line with gender norms produces significant anxiety, insecurity, stress and low self-esteem for both boys and girls” (“Gender Role Harm on Kid”). Effects such as these make the life of a child or young adolescent very troubling especially when it is expected at the time they are born to be placed on a norm. Outlined by CNN news reporters from – 15 country study, Emanuella Grinberg and Victoria Larned both reported, “For girls, those risks can include child marriage, pregnancy, leaving school early, sexually transmitted infections and exposure to violence. Boys suffer, too, from increased risk of substance abuse, suicide and shorter life expectancy than women — especially if they try to challenge masculine norms” (“Gender Roles on Kids” ). In the report it displays very disturbing outcomes that occur in the beginning stages of a child all the way into adulthood resulting in irreversible effects. Journalist and Transhumanist, Zoltan Istvan argues, ”Forcing religion onto minors is essentially a form of child abuse, which scars their ability to reason and also limits their ability to consider the world in an unbiased manner.” (“Illegal to Indoctrinate?”). Therefore, children and young adolescents from religious influence are facing religious prejudice by conforming to stereotypes such being fixed gender roles. Children being very young and innocence makes them extremely susceptible to knowingly detrimental practices such as having a gender role that do not have a voice to object at the time, but cannot either later towards adulthood because of the detrimental effects already instilled upon them and stigma of backlash that may be received by the religious society and authority.

Children and young adolescents are greatly affected by gender stereotypes from their religious denominations concluding to insensible generalizations. The historical and global presence of religion has lead for men and women alike to unconscious gender stereotypes with children at early ages being indoctrinated and being most susceptible to the harm caused by religious prejudice. Gender inequalities have been a part of this world since the earliest times of civilization, as has religion. As there is discrimination in abundant shapes and forms, none of it can be fixed in a single day. With that being said, the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day” means valuable projects do take time. It will take generation upon generation to slowly fray way from unequal tendencies that are right in front of us, but with an era of exploding innovation happening on a daily basis that reality may come sooner than expected.

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How Are Children And Adolescents Affected By Religious Backgrounds?. (2021, Feb 19). Retrieved from