Reviving Androgyny: A Modern Day Perspective on Flexibility of Gender Identity and Behavior

Carol Martin, Rachel E. Cook, Naomi C Z Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Bem’s conceptualization of psychological androgyny introduced a new way of thinking in which crossing gender boundaries was seen as an adaptive form of flexibility that promoted better psychological adjustment. However, the research linking androgyny and adjustment was mixed, and unfortunately, flexibility was not adequately measured and was seldom investigated. Because of the failure to assess flexibility, the underlying issue remains unresolved—is flexibility healthy or not? In the first section, we review Bem’s original idea of psychological androgyny and then describe how assessing capabilities and functional flexibility more closely match the original idea of flexibility than do earlier measures. The second section describes research from the United States that illustrates new ways to measure gender identity and explains how these studies might help resolve the link between identity and adjustment. Specifically, we discuss research on “identity androgyny” in which judgments of gender identity involve considering how the self relates to both genders. This dual-identity approach provides a nuanced view of the identity–adjustment link by suggesting that identifying with one’s own gender is important for mental health but identifying with the other gender provides additional social benefits and may relate to flexibility. Next, we describe research that used a dynamical system approach and methods to assess children’s behavioral flexibility and how it relates to adjustment. By carefully revisiting the issue of flexibility associated with androgyny, our intention is to provide a convincing case that the idea of androgyny has potential to motivate new research on gender development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)592-603
Number of pages12
JournalSex Roles
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Androgyny
  • Dynamical systems
  • Femininity
  • Flexibility
  • Gender identity
  • Masculinity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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