''Girls have long hair'' and other myths: the social construction of girlhood in fifth and sixth grade girls
Dummer, Susan Ilene
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The past fifteen years have yielded numerous studies of girls and the struggles they face in today's society. This dissertation examines the ways that preadolescent girls, "tweens," understand what it means to be a girl and the factors that shape their identity as a girl. Through thematic content analysis of data collected through 22 focus groups and one-on-one interviews, I argue that girlhood is a socially constructed phenomenon. The girls' perceptions of girlhood are influenced by their media consumption, their families, and their social interactions. Their understanding of girlhood includes both physical and psychological characteristics. The girls' understanding of girlhood is also reflective of stereotypical myths of femininity. The experience of girlhood, as described by the participants, is an experience of transition from child to adolescent, an experience of liminality, and includes dialectical tensions that the girls must attempt to negotiate. The girls? experience of girlhood differs from their perceptions of ideal girlhood, and often the girls indicate that the perceptions are ?real? and their personal experiences are not.