Adolescent boys' experiences with policing of masculinity: Forms, functions, and consequences
As a normative and context-dependent social process, policing of masculinity (POM) differentially impacts adolescent boys and operates as a primary gender socialization mechanism as they navigate adolescence. POM can be understood as any action that serves to prevent or punish behavior perceived as insufficiently masculine based on contextually situated gender norms. While previous studies have focused more on the emotionally damaging and victimizing components of policing behaviors, researchers are beginning to explore the normative behavioral manifestations of this social process. We extend those findings by investigating, through a functional-analytic social learning perspective, the range of boys' experiences with this normative and pervasive social process including its forms, functions, and emotional consequences. Our research methodology centered on semistructured interviews with a diverse sample of 30 adolescent boys, ages 14- to 19-years-old. Along with the traditionally cited examples of misogynistic and homophobic epithets, participants reported engaging in POM through a range of verbal and physical behavioral forms. When reflecting on their and other boys' participation in policing behaviors, participants referenced 3 predominant functions: masculine norm enforcement, status elevation and preservation, and friendship enhancement. Last, in considering the emotional consequences of POM, participants expressed 1 of 3 positions including unfazed, ambivalent, and troubled-upset. As illustrated by these findings, adolescent boys' experiences with POM vary significantly depending on situational contexts, social contingencies, and other factors. Additionally, boys' participation in POM is sustained through a cyclical and precarious gendered social learning system of reinforcement and punishment that ultimately serves to impart and bolster hegemonic masculinity.
Psychology of Men and Masculinity
adolescence, boys, gender role socialization, policing of masculinity, social learning
Reigeluth, Christopher S. and Addis, Michael E., "Adolescent boys' experiences with policing of masculinity: Forms, functions, and consequences" (2016). Psychology. 94.