Boys Will Be Boys, and Not Hold on to Friendships

Dr. Niobe Way, author of “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connections,” spoke on the subject of boy’s friendships and how they expand and contract from middle school to high school at a “Heard in Rye” workshop March 6.

Published March 21, 2014 5:00 AM
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Dr. Niobe Way, author of “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connections,” spoke on the subject of boy’s friendships and how they expand and contract from middle school to high school at a “Heard in Rye” workshop March 6.

By Sarah Varney

Dr. Niobe Way, author of “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connections,” spoke on the subject of boy’s friendships and how they expand and contract from middle school to high school at a “Heard in Rye” workshop March 6.

In her 2011 book, Way set out to disprove the conventional notion that boys are emotionally illiterate and don’t want intimate friendships. She got a hint of the inaccuracy of this belief when she was working as a counselor in Boston and New York public schools. “What I saw was boys talking about their intimate friendships with other boys. This was not at all what I was reading in the textbooks.”

At that time, Way was finishing her Ph.D. Through a study of over a 100 boys, ages 13-19, Way saw a trend in which boys started off with intimate friendships that they valued highly in middle school but that faded through the high school years. That’s the ‘crisis’ that Way refers to; that as societal pressure to mature, to become men, boys become more autonomous and rely less on friends for emotional support. During this period, best friends often become pals or buddies.  

Being tough and ‘making it on your own’ becomes the mantra. Sometimes girls foster these same stereotypes by disparaging boys who are seen as ‘sensitive.’ “The boys who are seen as ‘soft’ or sensitive are often derided but later on in life they often make the best husbands and fathers,” she said.

Way’s presentation outlined these ideas using many verbatim quotes from the boys in her study. Several audience members — fathers — asked for ways to make sure their sons understand the importance of friendship and maintain them on a daily basis.

The most effective way is to model that behavior, said Way. “Fathers who maintain friendships and make new friends regularly show their sons the value of staying connected.”

Staying connected to friends is definitely a concern for Rye mothers of sons. At the “Heard in Rye” program, mothers relayed tales of lost friendships and the deep upset they caused.

But if anecdotal reports from several Rye High School girls are accurate, most boys do an excellent job of nurturing their close friendships with other boys — to the detriment of romantic relationships. Boys often complain that having a girlfriend is constricting because it means they don’t have enough time for their friends. Spending time with friends usually wins out.

 

 

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