Wednesday, September 21, 2011

STRONG, SILENT TYPES: Boys think "opening up" is a waste of time, Mizzou researcher finds

Amanda Rose
COLUMBIA, 9/21/11  (Beat Byte) --  Just in time for parents, teachers, and counselors back to school, a Mizzou psychology professor says the conventional wisdom about why boys don't like to open up and discuss their problems is all wrong. 
 
"For years, popular psychologists have insisted that boys and men would like to talk about their problems but are held back by fears of embarrassment or appearing weak," explained Amanda Rose, Ph.D. (left)  But that's not it.  Boys are either too lazy or too busy to bother. 
 
"When we asked young people how talking about their problems would make them feel, boys didn’t express angst or distress about discussing problems any more than girls," Rose said. "Instead, boys’ responses suggest that they just don’t see talking about problems to be a particularly useful activity."
 
Rose and colleagues conducted surveys and observations of nearly 2,000 children and adolescents.  Girls were positive that talking about problems would make them feel understood and less alone.  Boys reported that talking about problems would make them feel like they were “wasting time.”
 
"Parents should explain to boys that, at least for some problems, some of the time, talking about their problems is not a waste of time," Rose said.  "They should also realize that they may be ‘barking up the wrong tree’ if they think that making boys feel safer will make them confide more."   
 
Boys need to see some real "utility" in problem talk, she added. 
 
The paper, "How Girls and Boys Expect Disclosure About Problems Will Make Them Feel: Implications for Friendships," will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Child Development. The study was co-authored by current and former MU psychology graduate students Rebecca Schwartz-Mette, Rhiannon Smith, Lance Swenson, Wendy Carlson, and Erika Waller and Rose’s colleague Steven Asher.
 
NEXT:  How Rose says girl talk evolves and what it means

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