“We found children at a very early age — from the most conservative to the most liberal societies — quickly internalize this myth that girls are vulnerable and boys are strong and independent,” says Robert Blum, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and the director of the Global Early Adolescent Study.

While there’s nothing wrong with protecting young girls or encouraging boys to be brave, absent any balancing messages, these expectations become restrictive “gender straitjackets” that can have negative consequences, say the researchers, particularly for girls. What starts as “protection” can become an expectation that girls should accede to the demands of others rather than making their own choices or taking risks.

It has long been suggested that during adolescence, the world expands for boys and shrinks for girls, but the new study, which looked at kids in Bolivia, Belgium, Burkina Faso, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Scotland, South Africa and the U.S., emphasizes how global that phenomenon is and how young it sets in.”

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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