Gender and Health in Very Young Adolescents

Caroline Moreau, Robert Blum, Kristin Mmari, Kara Hunersen, Eric Mafuta, Aimée Lulebi, Siswanto Agus Wilopo, William Stones, Denese Shervington, Kristien Michielsen, Chaohua Lou, Ana Luiza Borges, Matilde Maddaleno

Gender and Health in Very Young Adolescents

In 2005, the World Health Organization recognized gender as a structural driver of inequalities in health. While health patterns unfold throughout the life course, it is during the transitional period of early adolescence, 10e14 years of age, that a gender divide in health begins to emerge with consequences that exacerbate across adolescence and through adulthood. While the original understanding of this divide was mostly rooted in a biomedical conceptualization of gender (often conflated with sex), we have moved toward a biosocial understanding of gender as a sociocultural process that interacts with and regulates the bodies through differential patterns of exposures and practices. However, there are limited data outside of the United States and other Western societies that contribute to our understanding of the ways in which gender shapes health and well-being among early adolescents across diverse cultural settings. Understanding the extent to which this social process is fluid and consequential for health during this transitional period can also provide us with necessary insights into improving the design of effective early interventions to promote health and reduce inequities over the life course.

The Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS) is the first international multisite study to focus on gender socialization and health in early adolescence. As such, it offers a unique perspective to support theory and practice in the realm of gender and health, using nuanced and validated measures to shed light on young people’s perceptions of gender, how these perceptions evolve across adolescence, and their relevance in shaping their health and well-being.