Raising Boys with Positive Masculinity

The Stereotype of the American Male as a Model for Boys

Researchers have defined “toxic masculinity” as a group of beliefs and behaviors that include the following:

  • Anger, aggression and being violent are the best ways of solving conflicts.
  • Parenting is not a man’s main responsibility.
  • Men should never admit they were victims of abuse; they should feel shame if they were.
  • Men should always be the dominant one in the relationship with a female.
  • Boys and young men in the Man Box are up to six times more likely to have been sexually harassed; up to seven times more likely to have used physical violence; and twice as likely to have had suicidalthoughts in the previous two weeks.
  • If we got rid of the Man Box, we could reduce sexual violence by at least 69%; eliminate at least 41% oftraffic accidents; 40% of bullying and violence; 39% of suicides; and 24% of depressive symptoms among men (18–30) in the US, every year.
  • The minimum cost that could be saved annually by the US economy if there was no Man Box is $15.7 billion.

Childhood and Masculinity

With the influence of parents, school and peers, children learn at an early age, what it means to be a boy or a girl and are quick to demonstrate that they understand these roles. This notion of “doing” gender involves differentiating between boys and girls from the day they are born and feeds into social norms of masculinity.

What Parents Can Do to Raise Positive Masculine Boys

Global experts at Plan International, an international organization that advances gender equality and children’s rights, and Promundo, a global leader in engaging men and boys in promoting gender equality and preventing violence, have drawn from their decades of U.S. and global research and experience to provide concrete tips to help parents talk to their sons about healthy masculinity and self-expression. Here’s some of their ideas for parents.

Final Comments:

Unfortunately, we see daily the prevalence of toxic masculinity displayed in politics, foreign affairs and business. The problem is not going away easily. Surely one positive step is to reconsider how we raise boys to be men.

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