Masculinity class for boys could prevent violence

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Teaching teen boys about positive expressions of masculinity could combat violence against women and girls, research shows.

The findings suggest an intervention for middle school boys improved attitudes related to the use of coercion and violence in relationships, and also changed beliefs that violence, including harassment and sexual and dating violence, is acceptable.

“Most research on sexual and dating violence has focused on high school and college students—but research shows these forms of violence are also prevalent among middle school students,” says Vicki Banyard, professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s School of Social Work and lead author of the paper in Children and Youth Services Review.

Despite nationwide concerns about the rate of violence among middle school youth, few rigorously evaluated sexual and dating violence prevention initiatives for boys in this age range exist, particularly those that emphasize the promotion of healthy masculinity, Banyard says.

The nonprofit group Maine Boys to Men developed the program, which taught 292 sixth through eighth-grade boys across four schools in weekly classroom-based workshops over four months. Future research may combine classroom workshops on masculinity with broader school-level violence prevention strategies, Banyard says.

The program includes four, one-hour sessions that explore the normalization, pervasiveness, and harmful nature of gender role assumptions. The boys involved in the program learn about empathy, healthy relationships, and gender-based violence—and receive bystander intervention training through physical activity, peer-to-peer dialogue, storytelling, role play, multimedia, and group discussions.

“By focusing on positive expressions of masculinity, such as the ability to be respectful in relationships, this program helps boys find positive ways to prevent violence and to cope with violence to which they may already have been exposed,” Banyard says.

Additional coauthors are from Rutgers, the University of New Hampshire, and Maine Boys to Men.

Source: Rutgers University