‘Woke’ teen boys that believe in ‘progressive gender beliefs’ and equality between the sexes are LESS likely to be violent, study claims
- Researchers surveyed 866 teenage boys on gender equality and violent acts
- Teenagers filled out surveys anonymously in after-school community settings
- More than half the boys said they’d engaged in abusive behaviour towards girls
- Study authors say witnessing abusive behaviour has a ‘negative impact’ on boys
Boys who hold more ‘progressive views’ towards girls and gender equality are much less likely to be violent or engage in sexually abusive behaviour, researchers claim.
The study, by the University of Pittsburgh, saw 866 boys from poorer neighbourhoods fill out a survey about their views on gender and violence.
Boys who said they’d witnessed others being abusive or disrespectful towards girls had a two to five times greater chance of engaging in violent behaviours themselves.
It also found that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of boys had been in a physical fight, threatened or injured someone with a weapon.
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Teenage boys who witness abusive behaviour towards girls are up to five times more likely to be violent and abusive themselves, researchers claim (stock image)
‘This reinforces that pressure to conform to stereotypes about masculinity that perpetuate harmful behaviours toward women and girls is also associated with getting in a fight with another guy,’ said lead author Elizabeth Miller from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School.
‘These behaviours aren’t happening in silos – if we’re going to stop one, we need to also be addressing the other.’
Teenagers with a ‘less toxic attitude’ could help tackle abusive behaviour among their peers by presenting a good example of masculinity, according to researchers.
The team says a quarter of rape or attempted rape victims in the USA suffer their first assault before the age of 18, creating an ‘urgent need to tackle sexual violence’.
The research was part of a wider study into programmes aimed at tackling negative behaviour among boys towards girls by creating a better image of masculinity.
‘The MeToo movement brought to light how pervasive sexual violence and derogatory behavior toward women is in our society,’ said lead author Elizabeth Miller from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School.
‘Our findings highlight the wide-ranging impact that witnessing sexual harassment and dating violence has on our teenage boys.’
She said challenging negative gender and social norms could help put a stop to ‘disrespectful and harmful behaviors’.
There were 866 teenage boys aged 13-19 surveyed as part of the study and 91 per cent of them were ‘of colour’, say researchers.
This is the first time researchers have gathered information from American teenagers in community settings, rather than at schools or clinics on the subject of violence.
Dr Miller and her team had the boys fill out anonymous surveys at after-school programs, libraries, churches and other youth-serving organisations.
Out of the 866 boys that filled in a survey, 619 said they had been in a relationship, and a third said they used ‘abusive behaviour’ towards someone they were dating.
Sexual harassment, whether dating or not, was also common, with 56 per cent of the boys saying they’d engaged in the behaviour.
Dr Alison Culyba from UPMC Children’s Hospital said the study found there is a strong need for strategies to help address multiple aspects of youth violence.
Boys who ‘believe in gender equality’ were less likely to become violent or engage in sexually abusive behaviour towards girls, the study found (stock image)
All of the boys surveyed were equally as likely to engage in ‘homophobic teasing’ regardless of whether they believed in gender equality.
The fact that the majority of boys engaged in homophobic behaviour is a ”puzzling and troubling finding’, according to Dr Culyba.
‘We believe it may be because these teens have normalized homophobic teasing – it is so commonplace, they may see it as a form of acceptable, possibly even pro-social, interaction with their peers.’
They were questioned between August 2015 and June 2017 as part of a larger study evaluating the effect of a prevention program to reduce sexual violence.
The research team are evaluating two sexual violence prevention programmes as part of this research: Manhood 2.0 and Coaching Boys into Men.
Both programmes involve reinforcing more equitable gender attitudes and encouraging youth to intervene when witnessing disrespectful behavior.
The research has been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
What is the #MeToo movement?
In the wake of sexual misconduct revelations about Harvey Weinstein, millions shared their stories about being sexually harassed and assaulted.
This image shows Harvey Weinstein, center, leaving court following a bail hearing in New York. The movie mogul was at the centre of the #MeToo movement following accusations of sexual misconduct
The movement began in October 2017 after actress Alyssa Milano followed on a suggestion from a friend of a friend and tweeted: ‘If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.’
The hashtag was tweeted nearly a million times in 48 hours.
The slogan came after activist Tarana Burke first began using the phrase a decade ago to raise awareness about sexual violence.
It is linked to the Time’s Up movement, which was set up last year after #MeToo to provide funds for women taking legal action against alleged abusers.
Time’s Up also wants to introduce legislation across the globe to penalise companies that tolerate persistent harassment, and to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims.
It is backed by more than 300 women in Hollywood including Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Oprah Winfrey.