When Boys Become Boys

When Boys Become Boys: Development, Relationships, and Masculinity

Judy Y. Chu
WITH A FOREWORD BY CAROL GILLIGAN
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg8hm
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  • Book Info
    When Boys Become Boys
    Book Description:

    Based on a two-year study that followed boys from pre-kindergarten through first grade, When Boys Become Boys offers a new way of thinking about boys' development. Through focusing on a critical moment of transition in boys' lives, Judy Y. Chu reveals boys' early ability to be emotionally perceptive, articulate, and responsive in their relationships, and how these feminine qualities become less apparent as boys learn to prove that they are boys primarily by showing that they are not girls. Chu finds that behaviors typically viewed as natural for boys reflect an adaptation to cultures that require boys to be stoic, competitive, and aggressive if they are to be accepted as real boys. Yet even as boys begin to reap the social benefits of aligning with norms of masculine behavior, they pay a psychological and relational price for renouncing parts of their humanity. Chu documents boys' perceptions of the obstacles they face and the pressures they feel to conform, showing that compliance with rules of masculinity is neither automatic nor inevitable. This accessible and engaging book provides insight into ways in which adults can foster boys' healthy resistance and help them to access a broader range of options as they seek to connect with others while remaining true to themselves.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2485-9
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    CAROL GILLIGAN

    In the epilogue toThirteen Ways of Looking at a Man, the psychoanalyst Donald Moss tells the following story. When he was in first grade, they learned a new song every week and were told that at the end of the year, they would each have a chance to lead the class in singing their favorite, which they were to keep a secret. For Moss, the choice was clear: “The only song I loved was the lullaby ‘When at night I go to sleep, thirteen angels watch do keep … ’ fromHansel and Gretel.” Every night he would sing...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Even before our son Xander turned five, my husband and I fretted about finding a good school for him. Our concerns extended beyond the fact that good schools are few and hard to get into in San Francisco, where we live. Our main concern was about whether we would be able to find a school that was a good fit for him, given that he is both particularly sensitive and exceptionally bright.

    In pre-school, because he preferred calm, quiet activities and could feel shy at times, Xander tended to play alone. As he generally kept to himself and was rarely...

  5. 1 Entering Boys’ World
    (pp. 11-32)

    With the goal of learning about boys’ experiences from their perspectives, in their words, and on their terms, I adapted a relational approach to psychological inquiry that focused on developing comfortable relationships with the boys, earning their trust over time, and observing them as they interacted with each other and with me. In many regards, my study started from a place of not knowing. I explained to the boys that, because I am a woman (who was once a girl), I do not know what it is like to be a boy and therefore I would be looking to them...

  6. 2 Boys’ Relational Capabilities
    (pp. 33-62)

    Through developing relationships with four- and five-year-old boys and working closely with them over time, I observed these young boys to have the cognitive and emotional capacity to exhibit qualities and skills that challenge how boys are commonly thought of and spoken about in the literature on boys’ development and in our everyday lives. These boys’ relational capabilities included, for example, the ability to be:

    1. attentive, in the sense that they could listen carefully and respond thoughtfully as they engaged in their interactions with others:

    2. articulate, in the sense that they could describe their perceptions and experiences in a clear...

  7. 3 Socialization and Its Discontents
    (pp. 63-107)

    The shift in these boys’ relational presence—from presence to pretense via posturing—reflected in part how the boys were actively reading, taking in, and responding to their gender socialization at school. Although boys’ gender socialization often begins at home, their exposure to cultural messages about masculinity and societal pressures to conform can intensify during early childhood when many children enter schools for the first time. Through observing and interacting with adults and peers in their school settings, boys acquire their sense of what is considered appropriate and desirable behavior for boys, and also how their conformity to and deviance...

  8. 4 Boys versus the Mean Team
    (pp. 108-142)

    In this pre-Kindergarten class, the process wherein boys became “boys” was probably best illustrated by the boys’ participation on the Mean Team—a club created by the boys, for the boys, and for the stated purpose of acting against the girls. For these boys, the Mean Team appeared to play a central role in establishing a notion of masculinity that is defined both in opposition to and as the opposite of femininity. The Mean Team also emphasized and reinforced the hierarchy that had emerged among these boys. The requirements and implications of the boys’ membership on the Mean Team—as...

  9. 5 Boys’ Awareness, Agency, and Adaptation
    (pp. 143-165)

    For boys, early childhood is a time when pressures to accommodate to masculine norms often intensify as they begin to spend more time at school and with peers. Focusing on boys at this age, this study highlights the tension between boys’ relational capabilities—including their attunement and responsiveness to other people—and their adaptation to prevailing norms of masculinity in their school and peer group cultures. On the one hand, we can see and hear how emotionally and socially intelligent these four- and five-year-old boys are: how astutely they pick up other people’s emotions, how open and honest they can...

  10. 6 Parents’ Perspectives on Boys’ Predicament
    (pp. 166-198)

    In addition to conducting observations of and interviews with these four- and five-year-old boys, Carol and I also met with the boys’ fathers¹ and mothers,² separately. During these meetings, which took place on weeknights in the school’s library, the parents generously shared with us their thoughts and feelings about what they were observing in their sons at this age. Since Carol had initiated these meetings with the fathers (and the mothers then asked if we would meet with them as well), she took the lead both in raising questions (“What do you see in your sons that leads you to...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 199-212)

    This exploratory study contributes to our understanding of boys and boys’ development by examining their experiences of gender socialization at a critical moment of transition when they are under pressure, possibly for the first time, to cover up their relational capabilities and thus shield parts of their humanity. What was remarkable about these boys at this age was that they were in the midst of becoming “boys.” In focusing on early childhood (the time before boys’ behavioral and learning problems generally set in), my study highlights a period when boys can be open and honest in their relationships but are...

  12. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 213-214)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 215-222)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 223-226)
  15. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    (pp. 227-227)