WASHINGTON, May 28, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- While 56% of parents (of boys ages 4-14) report it is "very important" to them that their sons have emotional strength, they also say that boys are not comfortable sharing their full range of feelings, finds a report launched today by Promundo and the Kering Foundation.
The report, "Staying-at-Home with our Sons: Fostering Healthy Masculinity in Challenging Times," reveals that approximately 2/3 of parents agree that boys feel comfortable expressing anger; but that they are uncomfortable letting on when they are scared, sad, lonely, or unsure of themselves. Nearly half of parents say boys don't feel comfortable talking about love.
The report points to social pressures on boys to conform as being influential, and it shares recommendations on how to support them to break free from masculine stereotypes, aiming to support boys to: feel more comfortable expressing their emotions in positive ways, being themselves (without feeling pressured to "act like a boy"), and forming and maintaining connections with others, which will ultimately contribute to achieving gender equality and preventing violence. This data comes from a nationally representative survey conducted with parents of boys ages 4-14 in the US, supplemented by in-depth interviews with 16 boys ages 8-16 in California and Pennsylvania, conducted by PerryUndem.
The majority of parents (of boys ages 4-14) in the United States (US) – about 60% – recognize the social pressures boys face to be physically strong, show interest in sports, and "fit in." Additionally, 41% of parents said boys face pressures to have a girlfriend or like girls romantically (in other words, to be straight); and, 45% said boys face pressure not to cry.
"If you show feelings, it makes you look weak and vulnerable. People will take that vulnerability and use it against you." – 15 year-old boy, interview respondent
These pressures seem to get more intense as boys get older: through interviews, boys themselves report that when they hit early adolescence, around 10-12 years old, they felt more pressure to fit into masculine stereotypes than before. This trajectory may continue to mount with age: across every category, parents surveyed with sons on the older end of the spectrum (12-14 years old), reported their boys face more pressure to fit into a masculine ideal, than did parents of boys aged 4-11. Some parents may consciously, or unconsciously reinforce these masculine stereotypes: 25% of parents surveyed agree it is very important for their sons to "act like a boy," (and not like a girl), 19% think it is very important for their sons to be straight.
This isn't surprising, considering Promundo's research, which finds that at least 72% of young men (18-30 years old) in the US say they've been told that, "A 'real' man behaves a certain way," at some point in their life, and that this way often involves being heterosexual, tough, and a risk-taker. This can have negative consequences: young men who hold more stereotypical views about manhood are more unhappy, depressed and anxious, more likely to have considered suicide, to binge drink, to harass and to bully, and to use violence than young men who have less restrictive views of manhood.
However, preferences for honesty, respect, and emotional health for their sons demonstrate that, despite the persistence of harmful ideas about masculinity, many parents are working to help their sons break free from stereotypes: 61% of parents voted 'being honest' into their priority list of 5 traits they think are most important for their sons to learn, while 56% opted for 'respecting others', and 53% for 'being responsible'. Only 7% of parents agree that being physically strong should make the top of their son's priority list. With many parents spending additional time with their children, due to the spread of COVID-19, there is a challenge and an opportunity to continue to support boys to break free from stereotypes and to share their feelings in constructive, safe ways.
"The spread of COVID-19 has meant that many of us are not only spending increased time at home with our children, we are also worrying about the impact of the crisis on their wellbeing as well as our own," says Gary Barker, President and CEO of Promundo, "During this time, as adults, we have the opportunity to model how to express fears and concerns, and how to give and receive comfort and support. Our hope is that this guidance supports parents as they seek to encourage their children, particularly their sons, to express and cope with difficult feelings during this difficult time as well as long afterwards."
The report recommends actions parents can take, including to: Talk openly to children about their own fears, uncertainties, and disappointments, in age-appropriate ways; Take advantage of the time at home to talk constructively with boys; Acknowledge the particular challenges boys feel about being vulnerable, and the courage it takes for them to be open; Reinforce that it's okay to need help and to ask for it; Seek help for yourself to care for your mental and physical health; Remember that you are not alone.
"Perpetuated generation after generation, gender stereotypes about what it is to be a "real man" – not tolerating the expression of emotion – have a direct impact on violence against women around the world. To paraphrase Simone de Beauvoir, 'you are not born a man, but you become one'. The role of parents, as well as school, sports and TV, are all essential in building a new concept of masculinity, based on gender equality," states Céline Bonnaire, Executive Director of the Kering Foundation.
This report is the first in a series of new research and resources from the Global Boyhood Initiative, a project of Promundo and the Kering Foundation.
Access the full report: promundoglobal.org/fosteringhealthymasculinity
Notes to Editors
About the Research:
This report summarizes the findings of a study exploring what parents in the US want for their sons, their views toward gender norms and pressures, along with discussions with boys on the topic of masculinity. Our findings provide new insights on how parents can support healthier and more connected, resilient behavior in their sons.
In the fall of 2019 and early 2020, Promundo and the Kering Foundation commissioned PerryUndem to conduct survey research and interviews with parents and with boys themselves on the topic of masculinity and pressures to live up to certain cultural norms. This research included:
- In-depth interviews with 16 boys ages 8-16 in California and Pennsylvania. The interviews included boys from middle- and lower- income families, of diverse ethnicities and of diverse political leanings; and
- A nationally representative survey with parents of boys ages 4-14 in the US, conducted among 801 parents (mothers and fathers) from January 2 through 12, 2020 using YouGov's online panel.
Founded in Brazil in 1997, Promundo works to promote gender equality and create a world free from violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls and individuals of all gender identities. Promundo is a global consortium with members in the United States, Brazil, Portugal, Chile, and Democratic Republic of the Congo that collaborate to achieve this mission by conducting cutting-edge research that builds the knowledge base on masculinities and gender equality; developing, evaluating, and scaling up high-impact interventions and programs; and carrying out national and international campaigns and advocacy initiatives to prevent violence and promote gender equality. For more information, visit: www.promundoglobal.org
About Kering Corporate Foundation
Worldwide, 1 in 3 women is or will be a victim of violence during her lifetime. Since 2008, the Kering Foundation combats this violence that affects all cultures and all social classes. To maximize its impact, the Foundation works hand in hand with a limited number of local partners in the three main regions where the Group operates: the American continent, Western Europe and Asia. The Foundation supports local survivor-centered organizations that provide comprehensive services to women, and, since 2018, has begun working with younger generations, particularly young men and boys, to combat violence against women through prevention programs. The Foundation also seeks to change behaviors within Kering and in society in general. It offers training sessions on domestic violence for Kering employees and created, in 2018, alongside the FACE Foundation, "One in Three Women", the first European network of companies engaged against gender-based violence. The Foundation also organizes international awareness campaigns, all the while involving Kering's 35,000 employees worldwide. For more information, visit: www.keringfoundation.org
SOURCE Kering Foundation