Mixed-sex settings and the perception of competence

Nancy Darling, Bonnie B. Dowdy, M. Lee Van Horn, Linda L. Caldwell

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33 Citations (SciVal)


This study examines the association of self-perceptions with sixth to eighth graders' exposure to mixed-sex and dating contexts. It contrasts two hypotheses: the stress hypothesis, which suggests that the transition to romantic relationships will be associated with declines in self-esteem, especially for girls, and the leisure hypothesis, which suggests that movement into a desired role in an emotionally positive social context will be associated with positive emotions and higher self-esteem. Results indicate that adolescents experience mixed-sex settings positively, and that comfort with the other sex (for girls) and more time spent with the other sex (for boys) are predictive of more positive self-perceptions. Activity diary data suggest that these differences are due to differences in the emotional climate of same-and mixed-sex settings, rather than to the activities adolescents engage in with same-and mixed-sex groups. Dating boys who are less interested in dating experience lower self-esteem. Results are discussed in light of the transitional nature of mixed-sex relationships in early adolescence and the preparatory role played by same-sex friendships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-480
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of youth and adolescence
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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