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The Adolescent Man Box

The Adolescent Man Box is the first study focusing on the attiudes towards masculinity among Australian children aged 11 to 18, and how these attitudes impact their mental health, wellbeing, and behaviours.

In late 2018, The Men’s Project partnered with Edmund Rice Education Australia to develop and deliver The Adolescent Man Box. The research involved a survey and focus groups with adolescent boys at a Victorian secondary school. The study is the first to focus on the attitudes to manhood and the association between these attitudes and the mental health, wellbeing, risk behaviours and sexist attitudes and behaviours of Australian adolescent boys aged 11 to 18.

Developing The Adolescent Man Box

The study involved a sample of 1,170 adolescent boys (451 boys in year 7-8; 719 boys in year 9-12) from a Victorian secondary school, who completed a survey that asked questions about the above attitudes and behaviours. The analysis of the responses of the adolescent boys was completed separately for boys in year 7-8 and year 9-12. Boys in year 7-8 are at a different stage in their physical, emotional and cognitive development compared to the older boys and are likely to respond differently to the questions in the survey.

This study extends The Man Box research previously conducted by Jesuit Social Services with young adult men in Australia as well as existing research with young adult men in the United States, United Kingdom and Mexico released by Promundo in 2017.

Key findings

A key research question was the level of societal messages regarding the Adolescent Man Box rules as well as the extent to which adolescent boys accept or endorse the rules of the Adolescent Man Box. The four pillars of masculinity (the Adolescent Man Box rules) reflect the following values:

  • Constant efforts to be manly: reflects the norm that boys must maintain a strong and confident persona in order to appear manly – ie, masculinity involving not backing down in challenges.
  • Emotional restriction: reflects assumptions about masculinity involving the hiding of emotions and remaining emotionally invulnerable – ie, ‘real guys’ do not and should not talk about their own emotions, problems, fears, or worries; they should ‘hold it in’ or keep it to themselves.
  • Heterosexism: represents traditions ideas around masculinity as being in opposition to behaviours traditionally considered feminine or ‘gay’ – ie, to be considered manly it is important to avoid behaviours and attitudes that are traditionally thought of as being gay or feminine by others.
  • Social teasing: represents attitudes around the proposal that to be masculine boys must be able to tease their friends and stand up to such teasing when it is directed at them. Social teasing has an important role in helping guys to be able to fit in.