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<xTITLE>Boys To Men: Media Messages About Masculinity</xTITLE>

Boys To Men: Media Messages About Masculinity

by Children Now

This article was provided by Children Now. The complete "BoystoMen" reports are available at:

Highly publicized acts of violence by young males have captured the concern of the country as child experts nationwide search to understand the difficulties boys face today. While there is a considerable amount of finger pointing at the media, there is a dearth of research on the messages the media sends boys and girls about what it means to be a man in America. Boys to Men: Media Messages About Masculinity, released today by Children Now, a national child advocacy organization, begins to fill in the picture.

In a national poll from the study, almost three fourths of children aged 10-17 describe males on television as violent. More than two thirds describe them as angry. The children's perceptions are validated by the study's independent analysis of how men act and how masculinity is portrayed in the most popular programs boys watch. Other highlights from the study include:

  • Some level of violence appeared in over half of the sample of television shows and movies most popular among adolescent boys.
  • The vast majority (74%) of males in the programs and movies sampled perform anti-social behaviors such as ridiculing, lying, aggressive or defiant acts.
  • Many children do not think that "sensitive" describes television's male characters.
  • Sports commentators consistently use the language of war, martial arts and weaponry to describe sports action.
  • Traditionally masculine images of speed, danger, and aggression are often used in the commercials shown during sports programs boys watch.
  • Minority characters are more likely to use sexual behaviors to solve their problems, while White characters are more likely to use deception, dominance and ridicule.
"By many measures, America's boys-urban or suburban, white or minority-are in trouble. Yet they consume more media than ever, often occupying the time that coaches and fathers used to fill," said Lois Salisbury, president of Children Now.

"Our study shows that boys are exposed relentlessly to a narrow, confining picture of masculinity in America, one that reinforces anger and violence as the way to solve problems." Dr. William Pollack, co-director of the Center for Men at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School and author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, said, "As I talk to boys across America, I'm struck by how trapped they feel. Our culture puts boys in a gender straitjacket, channeling their full range of healthy emotions into narrow forms of expression, often aggressive ones. Media legitimates these constraints at a time when we desperately need to reinvent manhood in America."

The study, which examines both sports and entertainment media, included a national poll conducted by Lake Snell Perry & Associates of 1,200 young people (ages 10-17) and focus groups in which boys offered their own insights into the media that they consume. The study also included analyses conducted by academic researchers affiliated with the University of Washington and the University of Southern California that examined messages in the prime-time television shows, movies, music videos and sports programming most frequently watched by boys.

"As society begins to focus on the well being of boys, we are learning that boys need a fuller range of options to grow up healthy. The media's challenge is not only to catch up with the times, but to help show the way to a healthier future," said Salisbury.


Children Now is a nonpartisan, independent voice for children, working to translate the nation's commitment to children and families into action.

Recognized nationally for its policy expertise and up-to-date information on the status of children, Children Now uses communications strategies to reach parents, lawmakers, citizens, business, media and community leaders, creating attention and generating positive change on behalf of children.

With particular concern for those who are poor or at risk, Children Now is committed to improving conditions for all children. Founded in 1988, Children Now is a national organization with special depth in California.

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