Milken Institute SPH Researchers Examine Adolescent Gender Attitudes in India

Researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) recently published two studies analyzing gender attitudes among adolescents in India. In India, women and girls frequently face gender-based discrimination, which can lead to adverse health outcomes including malnutrition, maternal death, suicide and gender-based violence. During adolescence, boys and girls begin to develop lifelong attitudes about gender.

One study, published April 3, evaluated the effectiveness of the Girl Rising Gender-Sensitization Program in India. Girl Rising is a global initiative that uses storytelling to change cultural and social attitudes toward women and girls worldwide so they can lead better, healthier lives. Milken Institute School of Public Health is the official academic partner of Girl Rising, and the studies were conducted as part of the partnership. Amita Vyas, PhD, an associate professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute SPH and a producer for Girl Rising India, helped develop the program and served as the lead author on the study. The Girl Rising Gender-Sensitization Program is a comprehensive 24-week curriculum built around the Girl Rising feature film and multimedia tools, with the goal of supporting adolescent boys and girls in identifying and sharing their gender-related experiences through activities and stories. Girl Rising partnered with the Bharti Foundation to implement the program in schools in India.

The study used two comprehensive tests, one before and after completing the curriculum, to determine the effectiveness of the program. The tests examined boys’ and girls’ attitudes toward gender, what gender norms they believed, and whether the program changed their perception of the issue. More than 1,300 students took the pre-curriculum test, and over 1,500 took the follow-up test. Upon analyzing the data, researchers found that, after completing the curriculum, both adolescent boys and girls had more positive gender-based attitudes and a greater understand of gender-based discrimination.

The study also found that both boys and girls were more likely to speak up and act in support of girls, even if it meant speaking up to parents.

“The pilot evaluation study findings of the Girl Rising program is incredibly exciting since there is little data on whether gender-sensitization programs can yield positive attitude changes for adolescent boys and girls, a time of rapid cognitive and emotional growth,” Vyas said. “The notion that interventions that incorporate inspirational storytelling may effectively impact gender attitudes is so promising if we want to achieve long-term sustained change in gender norms, which will ultimately lead to significant changes for girls’ and women’s health and well-being.”

The second study, published April 1, examined the development of gender attitudes among adolescent boys and girls in India. Nearly 1,700 boys and girls took a survey about their beliefs on gender-based roles, norms and discrimination. The findings suggest more attention must be paid to adolescent boys so that they can become supporters of women and girls later in life.

“We often focus efforts and interventions on girls and women, and our study is more evidence on the need to intervene with adolescent boys to change their understanding of gender and to reinforce positive gender attitudes so that they ultimately become men who will value and support girls’ and women’s education, health and economic prosperity,” said Megan Landry, a Senior Research Associate at Milken Institute SPH and lead author of the study.

The studies were published in the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth and are available online here and here.