Correlations between femininity-masculinity and personality traits among 16-19-year-old Estonians

Mare Ainsaar, Kadri Soo, Tiina Laur

Gender is one of the most influential sources of human identity, which affects people’s behavior and the types of gender roles they prefer. Thus the study of gender and related identities has become extremely important in research into equality between men and women, family issues, labor policy, rights and behavior. Femininity and masculinity are two traits that may appear in parallel in one persons identity. The aim of the present article is to analyze what character traits 16-19-year old Estonians associate with masculinity and femininity. Young people are future actors on the labor market, they will be establishing their own families and future developments in society are dependent on their opinions.

The empirical data of the analysis derive horn the Estonian data from a study of the sexuality of the young people in the Baltic Sea region. The study was conducted by the University of Tartu and Tartu Child Support Center in April-May 2003 among students of Estonian-medium schools. The analysis will use the data about 16-19-year-olds, a total of 1709 people. The article presents analyses based on biological sex, gender (masculinity-femininity) and gender role type. The article will analyze the distribution of different personality traits among boys and girls, the associations created between certain traits and the perception of masculinity and femininity and which traits are considered characteristic of certain gender role types (combination of masculinity and femininity). The applied methods include comparisons of averages, correlation analysis and logistical regression.

The results show that 7% of students had either undeveloped or weak gender roles. 90% of boys considered themselves predominantly masculine, 2% androgynous and 1% feminine.

The distribution of girls was more varied – 72% saw themselves as predominantly feminine, 18% as androgynous and 3% as masculine. As there seem to be very few boys in Estonia who have a feminine self-perception, the analysis that employed models designed to measure correlations between personality traits was only applied to the study of the personality traits of boys who identified with the masculine or undeveloped gender role type and girls who identified with the feminine, androgynous and undeveloped gender roie type.

Boys who considered themselves predominantly masculine were considerably more selfconfident, dominating and open to risk than the less masculine boys. In boys the perception of masculinity was associated with greater athleticism, physical activeness and bravery. The perception of masculinity grew in the ages of 16-19. In the case of girls, masculine self-identification was associated with quick decision-making and the perception of oneself as aggressive and as having poorer skills in forming relationships. The girls who considered themselves feminine had a lower level of aggressiveness and risktaking and tended to consider themselves moreattractive to the opposite sex than other groups of girls.

Androgynous girls differed from the girls who considered themselves feminine and masculine. They were characterized by a higher opinion of their caring and friendliness, but they were also risk-takers, athletic, aggressive and frequently had a higher opinion of their initiative and courage to act and showed less empathy. The boys and girls with undeveloped gender identity did not resemble each other or any of the other gender roie types.

Thus the results for Estonian boys are in quite clear correlation with the traits that are characteristically attributed to men. The results for girls who consider themselves feminine are equally predictable. However, girls as a group are more diverse in Estonia and girls who have adopted masculine character traits also have combinations of other traits that are usually not considered feminine. The results of the article allow us to conclude that young people may have a different understanding of gender, depending on their gender and ethnicity. For example, there were no common traits between girls who perceived themselves to be masculine and boys who perceived themselves to be masculine. It is impossible to draw the same  conclusion about femininity because of the low level of feminine identification among boys.