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Dependency in Adolescence and Adulthood

During adolescence, substantial sex differences in de- pendency emerge, with girls showing significantly higher levels of dependency than boys. This pattern of results is consistent across different cultures {e.g., American, British, Japanese, Indian, German, Israeli), and across different cultural groups within Ameri- can society. Moreover, the finding that females show higher levels of dependency than do males has been replicated numerous times.

Recent studies further sug- gest that traditional sex-role socialization practices may be largely responsible for the higher levels of de- pendency typically found in women relative to men. Insofar as traditional sex-role socialization practices tend to encourage passive, help-seeking behavior in girls to a greater extent than boys, these socialization practices would be expected to produce higher levels of dependency in women than in men. Not surprisingly, empirical studies confirm that–to the extent that a girl grows up in a household which emphasizes traditional sex-role socialization practices–she is likely to show high levels of dependency during adolescence and adulthood.

Conversely, to the extent that a boy is ex- posed to traditional sex-role socialization practices (which emphasize assertive, autonomous behavior in boys), he is likely to show low levels of dependency later in life. Not only do sex-role socialization practices play an important role in determining the expression of depen- dency needs in adolescents, but studies confirm that the object of an individual’s dependency strivings (i.e., the person toward whom dependency needs are expressed most readily) changes from childhood to adolescence. Although dependency needs in childhood are typically directed toward the parents and other authority figures (e.g., teachers), during adolescence the dependent in- dividual directs his or her dependency strivings toward members of the peer group rather than toward figures of authority. T

his shift continues to occur throughout early adulthood, at which point romantic partners become primary outlets for the expression of an indi- vidual’s dependency needs. In addition, adults often express dependency strivings toward various “pseudo- parental” authority figures (e.g., supervisors, physi- cians, therapists), and (to a lesser extent) toward peers, parents, and sibling

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