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.
A New Construct for Understanding Adolescent Friendships and Psychological Health
Judy Y. Chu and Niobe Way
This article introduces the construct of “presence in relationship” along with a 25-item measure for its quantitative assessment. This construct expands upon the construct of “voice” as an indication of one’s experiences of self in relationships. Whereas voice focuses on the act of speaking out (saying what one thinks and feels) in relationships, presence in relationship further reflects the extent to which an individual feels connected to his or her self (is self-aware), connected to others (truly known and understood by others), and confident (trusting that one will be accepted and valued by others) within the context of interpersonal relationships. Results from the study of two samples of ethnically diverse middle school (N = 113; 59 males, 54 females) and high school (N = 176; 86 males, 90 females) students in New York City indicate that the Presence in Relationship Scale (PIRS) demonstrates good reliability and provides insight into adolescents’ friendship processes and sense of well-being. Because it includes indicators of the experience of self in relationships, as well as behavioral indicators, presence in relationship may be especially useful for understanding relationships and associated mental health outcomes in boys (and girls) who tend to place less emphasis on voice as a primary way of determining of closeness in relationships.