What Do You Need to Know About Gender Roles for the LMSW Exam?

By Emily Pellegrino on August 16, 2012

Alright everyone, this week we are looking at the concept of gender roles.  This term can be somewhat sticky because it is often disputed and criticized by a wide variety of theorists.  Even just the term gender has many definitions and can vary person-to-person depending on what it means for that specific individual.  Before we get too much into it, let's look at a sample question.

Gender sign with images of man and woman, question marks above their heads

Sample Question:

The concept of gender roles is BEST defined as:

A. An individual's sexual preference or orientation

B. The degree to which an individual patterns oneself after members of the same sex

C. The behaviors and personality characteristics often attached to an individual because of their sex

D. The components, influenced by society, of attraction, behavior, and identity which make up an individual

The concept of gender roles is pretty interesting because there are so many different theories that define it.  An object-relations theorist may focus on the effects that socialization has on gender roles whereas an evolutionary theorist views genetics as the basis for gender development.  As you can see, it's pretty confusing, and everyone seems to have a different opinion! Gender roles also vary widely between cultures and therefore when working with client's it is important to determine what gender means to that person as an individual.  Depending on a person's culture, where or how they grew up, or even their own individual preference, people all have their own beliefs about what role gender serves in their own life. This separation of gender roles is easily seen if you take a stroll down the toy isle in a store.  The girls section is covered in pink princesses, whereas the boys section includes action figures and a lot of blue.   It can be difficult for individuals who feel that they don't "fit" into the specific gender role that society has created for them.  That is why when working with client's it can be useful to help them define what gender means for them rather than what they think it should mean. According to The Social Work Dictionary, gender roles is defined as, "The behaviors and personality characteristics that are attached, often inaccurately, to people because of their sex" (Barker, 2003).


The best answer here is C because it provides a comprehensive definition by including both the personality and behaviors exhibited by an individual. A is incorrect because it is referring to an individual's sexual identity and B is incorrect because it is referring to a person's gender identity.  D is incorrect because the statement is discussing the concept of sexual orientation.

Coming up next week: Hallucinations

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your LMSW exam? If you're preparing for the social work exam, check out our LMSW Study Materials. Learn more about our exam prep at the The Therapist Development Center home page.

Looking for more practice questions and some study tips? Check out our new Social Work Exam Study Guide:

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