Our longitudinal studies of boys over the past two decades have revealed that boys have and/or want intimate male friendships and that these relationships are critical for their mental health. Yet as they reach late adolescence, boys become wary of their male best friends even as they continue to want emotional intimacy with these peers. As the pressures of stereotypic manhood intensify, boys disconnect from the very relationships that support their mental health. The numerous challenges faced by boys in school and at home are in part a reflection of this disconnection.
Close Friendships among Adolescent Boys
Four Notes from the Field
Karl Frerichs, Peter Kuriloff, Celine Kagan, Joseph Nelson, Dwight Vidale, and John Thornburg
"Reinventing Leadership Training Using a Participatory Research Model" by Karl Frerichs and Peter Kurlioff
"Reading for Masculinity in the High School English Classroom" by Celine Kagan
"Helping Boys Take Flight: A Peer-Mentoring Program for Boys of color at the Riverdale Country School" by Joseph Nelson and Dwight Vidale
"A Relational Approach to Teaching Boys" by John Thornburg
Inclusive Masculinity in a Physical Education Setting
There is a strong relationship between the cultural practices of competitive, organized youth sport and compulsory physical education. The hyper-masculine, violent, and homophobic culture traditionally found within boys segregated sporting spaces is mirrored when youth are compelled to participate in physical education. However, cultural homophobia is on rapid decline in Western countries. Recent research shows high school and university sport to be an increasingly inclusive environment for openly gay male youth. I explore this cultural shift among high school (sixth form) physical education students in England. Using three months of ethnography, and conducting 17 in-depth interviews with 16-18 year old ostensibly heterosexual boys, I show an absence of homophobia and homophobic discourse, the abatement of violence, the absence of a jock-ocratic school culture, and the emotional support of male friends. Thus, I show that while the structure of sport education has remained the same, the hyper-masculine culture surrounding it has changed.
Making Boys' Care Worlds Visible
This paper is based on longitudinal, ethnographic research with young people from ages 10-18 growing up in urban, low-income, immigrant communities of color and how they represented their everyday lives and family-school relationships through photography and video. The author analyzes the similarities and differences between the boys’ and girls’ perceptions, participation in, and representations of their care worlds and how this shapes their identities. The article features the themes of love, care and solidarity that were central to the boys’ understandings and identities, re-casting widely held assumptions about the crisis of Black boyhood that preoccupy current educational discourse.
From Adolescent Boys to Queer Young Men
Support for and Silencing of Queer Voice in Schools, Families, and Communities
Gilligan (1996) and other feminist relational psychologists have identified a “silencing” to which adolescent girls are vulnerable when they confront pressures to conform to patriarchal values and norms in various social contexts. As Machoian (2005) and other researchers have noted, the silencing of girls’ authentic voices at adolescence is associated with heightened risk for depression and for suicide, cutting, eating disorders, and other self-harming behaviors. This article is based on in-depth interviews that examined the ways in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying youth might be subject to an analogous silencing of their authentic “queer voices.” Drawing on four case studies of male youth who participated in a larger qualitative research project, the article examines how schools, families, and communities both supported and silenced the authentic expression of their voices as gay- or queer-identifying boys. Since two of the case studies are based on interviews with participants at both late adolescence and young adulthood, the article also examines the effects of supportive factors over time and how they helped contribute to a purposeful, voiced sense of queer male identity as the participants reached manhood.
"From the Top on Down It Is Systemic"
Bullying, Privilege and the Schooling of Hegemonic Masculinity
Brett G. Stoudt
In order to better understand the socialization and (re)production of privilege, most especially gendered privilege, within elite independent schools it is important to examine the masculine performances of its students enacted through bullying as well as the masculine environments in which these enactments are produced. This paper will begin explicating the messages received and the representations shaped by Rockport’s hegemonic masculine curriculum and the embodiment of these dynamics through research on bullying conducted with students and faculty at an elite, single-sex independent boys school, Rockport. The data revealed that bullying between boys at Rockport helped to discipline and reproduce hegemonic masculine boundaries; it was as much an expression of Rockport’s culture as it was a vehicle for policing and reproducing its culture. However, not only were the boys within Rockport gendered, the faculty and even the institution itself was gendered. In this way, it was systemic, both students and faculty acted within this institutional culture and held and managed expectations about their gender.
Adolescent African American Boys' Response to Gender Scripting
Lionel C. Howard
This article focuses on the ways in which a select group of adolescent African American males respond to gender scripts. Drawing on interview and focus group data, the article describes four different responses to messages they receive from peers and significant adults about socio-culturally appropriate behaviors and characteristics of masculinity: 1) adapting or modifying their presentations of self, 2) internalizing ascribed gender scripts, 3) resisting, and 4) remaining conflicted about an appropriate response. Narratives highlight the complexity of gender identity development and active participation of African American boys in the construction of a masculine identity that feels most authentic, as well as the role of agents of socialization on identity.
"A Place to Be Myself"
The Critical Role of Schools in Boys' Emotional Development
Michael Reichert, Joseph Nelson, Janet Heed, Roland Yang, and Wyatt Benson
Restrictions on boys’ capacities to process and to show emotion, however detrimental for their development, constitutes a key lesson of the masculinity curriculum learned in schools. To explore what schools can do to offer support for boys’ resistance to this curriculum, a series of studies has been conducted at a suburban independent school outside Philadelphia, PA. The present study uses a mixed-method design, including teachers, university-based researchers and students on the research team, to examine how boys’ participation in a peer counseling program influenced their sense of self and self-expression. A survey, focus groups, interviews, and observations supported the usefulness of the intervention for boys. The following qualitative themes emerged: (1) The constraining effect of the school’s masculinity culture on boys’ emotional development; (2) the value of a “safe space” in overcoming this culture and in promoting boys’ learning and connection; (3) boys’ ready development of new skills, especially in relation to emotional experiences, when invited to do so; (4) the deepening and broadening of boys’ friendships resulting from their self-disclosure and mutual support.
Reproduction, Resistance and Hope
The Promise of Schooling for Boys
Michael C. Reichert and Joseph Nelson
Extended editorial introduction to a double special issue on boys and schooling. Adopting a developmental perspective on boyhood, the editors frame these special issues on boys' education by reviewing research on their experience of schooling. In particular, they endeavor to illuminate boys' agency and opportunities they can find in schools for resistance to restrictive masculine regimes.
Resisting Boys, Resisting Teachers
Miriam B. Raider-Roth, Marta Albert, Ingrid Bircann-Barkey, Eric Gidseg, and Terry Murray
How do teachers build an understanding of their relationships with the boys they teach? This article examines an inherent complexity in the teacher-boy relationship that is rooted in a fundamental relational tension: genuine learning requires the development and nurturing of trustworthy relationships, yet many boys are faced with a cultural mandate of separation from relationships, especially care-giving ones such as parents and teachers. One area in which boys’ negotiation of this paradox is visible is in the examination of some boys’ resistances to their teachers, the curriculum of school, and school culture. Through an action research qualitative, relational methodology, this article examines teachers’ understandings of this paradox. Participants were members of a Teaching Boys Study Group, a forum of teachers dedicated to studying teaching, gender and relationship. Findings of this study reveal that when participating teachers confronted boys’ resistances in school, they were engaging a critical intersection of their teaching identities, culture and relationship. Specifically, they confronted a relational paradox that challenged their sense of self as teacher and connections with the boys they taught.