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Factors in the Development of Spatial Cognition in Boys and Girls

Assessing the Impacts of Biology and Navigational Experience

Mariah G. Schug


Spatial cognition represents one of the best-established sex differences in cognitive science. There is a pervasive tendency for males to outperform females on multiple spatial reasoning tasks. While prenatal hormones may provide a foundation for these differences, childhood experience also plays an important role. The current article examines how biological factors may interact with environmental and cultural factors. Of particular interest is the cross-cultural literature in which children’s naturalistic experiences exploring their environments can be linked to the development of spatial skills. Based on the examined research, children who gain more navigational experience tend to perform better on spatial tasks. Because boys typically have greater opportunities to explore and navigate, this difference in experience may contribute to the observed sex differences in spatial performance.

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A Hard Life for Hard Men—and Boys!

James Marten

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The Nineteenth-Century Dime Western, Boyhood, and Empowered Adolescence

Martin Woodside


The nineteenth-century dime novel was a significant component of adolescent culture. Dime novel Westerns prefigured emerging ideas of adolescence to inform cultural constructions of American boyhood. These texts articulated and responded to prevailing notions of proper and improper boyhood by imagining the frontier as a space of and for youth. Scholars have addressed many subversive elements of the dime novel, while largely ignoring how this literature interrogated hierarchies and categories of age. The present analysis explores that gap, highlighting the Western dime novel as a critical site for negotiating ideas of American boyhood in the late nineteenth century.

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Scouting and the Modern Boy

Jay Mechling

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Back in Time Yet of His Time

Marty McFly as a 1980s Teenage Boy Role Model

Daniel Smith-Rowsey


In a world of overprotected, overscheduled children, parents look to the past, and even to Hollywood, for insight about how children were raised before minimal risk equated to serious hazard. The most recent corpus of films to feature minors who grew up without our current preoccupation with child safety was the somewhat well-established canon of 1980s teen films, but this canon tends to exclude the original Back to the Future film. While Back to the Future is hardly a neglected text, extant studies have elided its exploration and indeed exploitation of adolescent themes as well as its affinity with contemporary films about teenagerhood. I contend that when we look back for recent cues on coping through boyhood without so-called helicopter parents, and we consider the likes of Jeff Spicoli, Lloyd Dobler, and Ferris Bueller, we can find further valuable lessons by including Marty McFly.

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“I Am Trying” to Perform Like an Ideal Boy

The Construction of Boyhood through Corporal Punishment and Educational Discipline in Taare Zameen Par

Natasha Anand


In this article I examine boyhood as presented through the figure of an eight-year-old boy, Ishaan, in the Hindi film Taare Zameen Par (2007). In the current era of India’s globalization, how does the particular politics of hegemonic masculinity inform the very foundations underlying the family and school as punitive structures? By positing the analytical perspectives of childhood studies and the performativity of identity against Foucauldian inflected terminology, I argue that Ishaan enacts the dual role of both victim and agent in a film that mediates between two forms of harsh regulatory practices—corporal punishment and educational discipline. The climactic reorientation of an ideal boyhood gradually unfolds against the backdrop of the performances of other contrasting masculinities installed through the figures of the boy’s father, brother, fellow-students, and school-teachers. By drawing such interconnections, I see the film as contesting the ways in which domestic and academic institutions affect contemporary masculine subject formation.

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Cinemas of Boyhood Part II

Timothy Shary

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Non-Transitional Adolescences in The City and the Pillar and Other Voices, Other Rooms

Chung-Hao Ku


In this article I study two American novels in order to tease out the stakes, in boyhood studies, of viewing adolescence as a transition. In Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar and Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms, boy protagonists seem to suffer from arrested development or undergo a phase of sexual exploration. But such readings either define marriage and reproduction as the only way of growth, or envision a homo/hetero-identified subject who looks back on his adolescence as an experimental transition. In Vidal’s and Capote’s narratives, such a heteronormative life trajectory and homo/hetero subject do not exist. Since the narratives open the protagonists to the backward temporalities of return and the gothic, the narratives and the characters together thwart teleological or linearized notions of maturity and identity formation.

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The Rumble of Nostalgia

Francis Ford Coppola’s Vision of Boyhood

Molly Lewis


Rumble Fish, based on the young adult novel published by S.E. Hinton in 1975 and made into a film by Francis Ford Coppola in 1983, is often overshadowed by Hinton’s more popular 1967 novel and Coppola’s more successful film, The Outsiders, from earlier in 1983, even though the later film, Rumble Fish, has been discussed by a few notable scholars of teen cinema. This article examines why Rumble Fish, which centers on a juvenile delinquent and his elusive brother, failed to attract an audience during the time of its release. A detailed comparison of the novel and the film as well as an analysis of Coppola’s director’s commentary reveals that Coppola’s autobiographical touches resulted in a film that provokes a varied subjective and emotional response from its viewers. The film, like the novel, is constructed as a memory. Rumble Fish is best understood as a nostalgic exploration of Coppola’s own feelings regarding his boyhood rather than as a universal coming-of-age tale.

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The Schoolboy Sports Story

A Phenomenon and a Period Distinctive in the Cultural History of America

R.W. (Bob) Reising