Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Today's superheroes send wrong image to boys, say researchers

Date:
August 21, 2010
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
Watching superheroes beat up villains may not be the best image for boys to see if society wants to promote kinder, less stereotypical male behaviors, according to psychologists.

Watching superheroes beat up villains may not be the best image for boys to see if society wants to promote kinder, less stereotypical male behaviors, according to psychologists who spoke Sunday at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

Related Articles


"There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday," said psychologist Sharon Lamb, PhD, distinguished professor of mental health at University of Massachusetts-Boston. "Today's superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he's aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Ironman, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns."

The comic book heroes of the past did fight criminals, she said, "but these were heroes boys could look up to and learn from because outside of their costumes, they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities," she said.

To understand how the media and marketers package masculinity to boys, Lamb surveyed 674 boys age 4 to 18, walked through malls and talked to sales clerks and came to understand what boys were reading and watching on television and at the movies. She and her co-authors found that marketers take advantage of boys' need to forge their identity in adolescence and sell them a narrow version of masculinity. They can either be a "player" or a "slacker" -- the guy who never even tries -- to save face.

"In today's media, superheroes and slackers are the only two options boys have," said Lamb. "Boys are told, if you can't be a superhero, you can always be a slacker. Slackers are funny, but slackers are not what boys should strive to be; slackers don't like school and they shirk responsibility. We wonder if the messages boys get about saving face through glorified slacking could be affecting their performance in school."

Teaching boys early on to distance themselves from these images and encouraging them to find the lies in the messages can help, said Lamb. "When you crowd out other types of media messages, you promote stereotypes and limit their options."

Boys seem better adjusted when they resist internalizing "macho" images, according to a researcher who also presented at APA's convention.

Researcher Carlos Santos, PhD, of Arizona State University, examined 426 middle school boys' ability to resist being emotionally stoic, autonomous and physically tough -- stereotyped images of masculinity -- in their relationships. He also looked at how this would affect their psychological adjustment.

Santos looked at whether boys could resist being tough, emotionally unavailable, and detached from their friends as they moved from sixth to eighth grade; whether ethnicity made a difference; whether their relationships with their families and peer group fostered this resistance; and whether resisting these images affected their psychological health.

Participants were from different racial/ethnic backgrounds: 20 percent were African-American, 9 percent were Puerto Rican, 17 percent were Dominican-American, 21 percent were Chinese-American, 27 percent were European-American and 6 percent were of another race or ethnicity.

Boys from diverse ethnic and racial groups were equally able to resist these masculine stereotypes, going against the common belief that certain ethnic minority boys are more emotionally stunted and hypermasculine, said Santos. Few differences were detected and most tended to dissipate over the course of middle school.

He found that boys were more likely to act tough and detached from their friends as they got older. But boys who remained close to their mothers, siblings and peers did not act as tough and were more emotionally available to their friends compared to those who were not as close. However, closeness to fathers encouraged boys to be more autonomous and detached from friendships.

"If the goal is to encourage boys to experience healthy family relationships as well as healthy friendships, clinicians and interventionists working with families may benefit from having fathers share with their sons on the importance of experiencing multiple and fulfilling relationships in their lives," Santos said. He also found that boys who were depressed had a harder time not acting macho in their friendships.

Interestingly, levels of emotional stoicism tended to remain stable throughout the middle school years and boys who did not adopt these macho behaviors had better psychological health in middle school, he found.

The results show that being able to resist internalizing these macho images -- especially aggression and autonomy -- declines as boys transition into adolescence and this decline puts their mental health at risk, said Santos. "Helping boys resist these behaviors early on seems to be a critical step toward improving their health and the quality of their social relationships."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association. "Today's superheroes send wrong image to boys, say researchers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100815162118.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2010, August 21). Today's superheroes send wrong image to boys, say researchers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100815162118.htm
American Psychological Association. "Today's superheroes send wrong image to boys, say researchers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100815162118.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins