• SumoMe


Teenage males shutting down relationships with their male peers is part of what turns boys into taciturn, emotionally disconnected men.

A new study by Niobe Way, a professor of adolescent psychology at New York University, published in her book “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection” (Harvard University Press), found that teenage males who abandon their close relationships with their male peers often become emotionally disconnected men who long for adult relationships.

The New York Times interviewed Way and she had this to say:

Despite stereotypes of teenage boys as grunting, emotionally tone-deaf creatures who bond over sports talk and risk-taking, she said, their need for intimate friendship is as potent as it is for girls. Boys in early adolescence would speak candidly about those friendships to Dr. Way and her researchers, acknowledging the importance of having a best friend who was both repository and guard for their most private feelings.

But as the boys grew older, the intensity of those relationships faded. Boys feared being seen as “too girly” or even gay for expressing attachments to one another, even just for feeling them.

She leaned forward with evident urgency: “This is not some academic read I’m doing. The boys are aware of the power of their relationships. They are overtly saying, ‘I want him, I need him, I miss him — no homo!’ And then they grow up and become depressed.”

She added: “Parents reinforce those stereotypes. They’ll tell me, ‘My son is supersensitivebut he plays sports!’ ”

“Allowing Teenage Boys to Love Their Friends,” Jan Hoffman, New York Times, 2011.

This study is particularly interesting given that Way followed these boys as they grew up. While I’m not an expert of developmental sociology by any means, I am unaware of any other studies that investigate the manner and effects of teenage male relationships with their peers. As such, this study intrigued me and left the door open to a few questions, namely: how do these results compare with their longing for female attention? How does the role of the father (or lack of a father) change the results, if at all? Do active mothers have any impact? Are gay/transgender teenage males experiencing the same results as straight males? Are the results similar across all socioeconomic classifications?

Admittedly, I haven’t read her book, and she might address these questions in her work. Has anyone read this book yet? If so, what did you find most interesting?