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An investigation into the perceptions of gender roles amongst adolescents of high schools in Pinetown, KZN.

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This research project was aimed at identifying the perceptions of adolescent boys and girls with regard to the role function of men and women in society. Quantitative and qualitative methods, and a hybrid form of sampling were employed in this research project. The sample for this study was drawn from 5 secondary schools and comprised 65 boys and 65 girls. The adolescents' perceptions were analysed and interrogated critically against the yardstick provided by the non-sexist values of the South African constitution. An attempt was made to identify the extent to which the adolescents' perceptions are in synch with rigid patriarchy, sexism and the gendered division of labour, and the extent to which the adolescents' perceptions are in synch with the non-sexist South African constitution. The analysis of the adolescents' perceptions were informed inter alia by the theories of essentialism and constructivism. The research revealed, inter alia, that most of the adolescents reject rigid patriarchy; reject the gendered division of labour in some spheres ; accept the gendered division of labour in some spheres ; accept and favour the economic empowerment of women ; believe that sex should be negotiated ; believe that men are more suited to be leaders than women ; are against the perpetration of violence by either of the sexes and are homophobic and heterosexist • It was also evident that while both boys and girls rejected rigid patriarchy; girls were decidedly more receptive to the empowerment of women than boys. The study revealed that while there has been an erosion of the rigid division of the masculinized public sphere and the feminized domestic sphere, the public sphere is perceived as one in which men should dominate while the domestic sphere is deemed more suitable for women than men with women and men playing supportive, subdued albeit ever increasing roles in the public and domestic spheres respectively - the researcher as termed the existing perception the yin-yang worldview and the emergent perception the yanging-yin-yining-yang worldview. The study also highlighted that perceptions are not determined entirely by knowledge and ideals and served to bring home forcefully, the overriding potency of social realities and conditioning in shaping and regulating perceptions. In short the study demonstrated that the adolescents have not fully embraced the non-sexist values of the new constitution. The findings of the study were utilized by the researcher as a diagnostic instrument to produce recommendations and solutions - based on Freirean praxis - for the elimination of sexist, patriarchical perceptions.


Thesis (M.Ed.) - University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2003.


Sex role--KwaZulu-Natal., Teenagers--KwaZulu-Natal--Attitudes., Gender identity--KwaZulu-Natal., Gender identity in education., Theses--Education.