Society and Boys: Are Boys Treated Differently Than Girls
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
HULL, P. K. (2001). Society and Boys: Are Boys Treated Differently Than Girls. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Society and Boys: Are Boys Treated Differently Than Girls
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
The purpose of this study is to determine if there is a difference in females and males in relations to his/her belief in a boy code and the effects of this belief on the individual`s self-esteem. The study consisted of giving participants surveys on the boy code and a Self-esteem Inventory. The hypothesis is that male subjects will have lower self-esteem and that there will be a negative correlation between self-esteem and the belief in the boy code.

Pollack’s (1998) study of boys’ behavior coined the term “Boy Code.” This is society’s insistence that boys hide their emotions. Boys are to have a “Mask of Masculinity” to hide their feelings such as hurt, shame, and weaknesses. The only feelings that society allows a boy to express are those of anger and frustration. The “Boy Code” is a series of unspoken and unwritten rules of conduct that boys have been raised with for many generations. The code says boys must be tough and unresponsive to pain. Boys are unable to show affection or feelings according to the boy code. The separation of mother and son needs to be such a way that both can move on with their life’s and the boys’ natural need for emotional developmental with his mother and other females are still met. The boy without fathers and other males can have even a harder time psychologically separating from his mother. The boys are to be able to be independent, not needing anyone. According to Pollack (1998), the lack of showing true emotions hardens a boy until he loses touch with them. Boys feel great pressure from the boy code and feel as though they are not capable to live up to the ideal code. The more pressure a boy feels, the more deeply he withdraws. The boy becomes frustrated, angry, and sometimes even violent from this pressure. Anything that a boy says or does that’s different can and will be used against him. Everyone is affected by this code because there is a lack of communication from everyone involved. According to Gurian (1998), a boy may not feel safe in the psychological world when a culture that sends many chauvinistic messages causing adolescents to end up feeling emotional voids with a media stereotypes, sexists, and chauvinistic attitudes that cloud healthy masculine development. Gurian (1998) also states when boys are experiencing an average drop in self-esteem will pretend more self-confidence, will admit less weakness, will posture more, will pursue more overt attention, and will appear more aggressive. The more pressure a boy feels, the more deeply he withdraws. Emotional isolation sets in by adolescence and the boy has learned how to mask his emotional needs and hide his feelings. The boy becomes depressed and is often ignored because he is meeting cultural expectations of masculinity. Young boys are typically more rambunctious than girls, yet the grade school teachers, overwhelmingly women, confine them to chairs for long periods and punish them for activity. As a result, some boys develop a negative notion of education as controlling and prohibitive (Kindleton).


The participants were students from Dr. Brian Cronk’s general psychology class at Missouri Western State College in Saint Joseph, Missouri. There were 33 participants consisting of 30 females and 3 males. The subjects were given extra credit for his/ her participation.

The materials required to do this experiment were a pen and pencil test that I created to measure the strength of the boy code (see Appendix A) and a second pen and pencil test, the Self-Esteem Inventory written by Coopersmith (1967) to measure self-esteem (see Appendix B).

The participants were informed that he/she was participating in a survey for self-esteem and gender roles. He or she was asked to fill out the gender role first and then the Self-esteem Inventory. The participant was also asked his/her age and gender at the end of each survey. The scales were numbered one and one, two and two, three and three, etc. so each individual’s scores could be compared. After the surveys were collected, the participant’s information was recorded. The two different sets of scores were used to compare how participants view the behaviors of boys and girls to his/her self-esteem.

A Pearson correlation coefficient was calculated for the relationship between subjects’ self-esteem and how he/she views the behaviors of boys and girls. A strong negative correlation was found for females (r(30) = -.418, p< .05) indicating a significant linear relationship between the two variables. This indicates that the stronger the belief of a female that a boy code exists, the lower the female’s self-esteem. A weak correlation that was not significant was found for males (r(3) = .015, p>.05).

The results expected were that boys would have a lower self-esteem the stronger they perceived the boy code to be. This study failed to support the hypothesis. This is most likely due to having only three male subjects. It did support the hypothesis in a limited capacity because the three male subjects scored increasing higher on the boy code survey as they scored lower on the self-esteem survey. The females in this study also showed the same tendency. This is probably due to the pressures females feel due to the different treatment between boys and girls. In general, females had higher self-esteem than the males, but did have a significant negative correlation between self-esteem and belief in the boy code. If this study were to be repeated, it would be beneficial to use more male subjects. It might be better to also use a more diverse set of subjects as opposed to only college students. There might be a difference in results between young adults, teenagers, and older adults.

Gurian, Michael. (1998). A Fine Young Man: What parents, mentors, and educators can do to shape adolescent boys into exceptional men. New York, New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.Kindlon, D. and Thompson, M. (1999). Raising Cain: Protecting the emotional life of boys. New York, New York: Ballantine Books.Pollack, W. (1998). Real Boys. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc.

Please put the answer that fits best.1 = STRONGLY DISAGREE; 2 = DISAGREE; 3 = UNDECIDED; 4 = AGREE;5 = STRONGLY AGREE_____ 1. Boys need to play contact sports to toughen up._____ 2. Boys should not be babied when hit with a baseball._____ 3. Boys should be taught masculinity by men. _____ 4. Boys who choose careers such as a chef, hairdresser, or a dancer are less masculine._____ 5. Boys should play rough._____ 6. It is okay for boys to show their anger._____ 7. Boys should not hang out with their moms._____ 8. Boys can handle pain better than girls can._____ 9. Girls should do the housework._____ 10. Boys should not play with dolls._____ 11. Boys are the way they are because of their testosterone level._____ 12. Boys are more violent than girls._____ 13. Boys are not showed enough affection._____ 14. Boys should be in the garage with the guys._____ 15. Girls should not play football or be allowed to wrestle._____ 16. Boys should not wear earrings._____ 17. Boys should not show affection to one another in public._____ 18. Boys should be allowed to act out their frustrations._____ 19. A boy being rough is just being a boy._____ 20. Boys should be taught to express their feelings as girls.Age: _________Gender: ________________

Self-Esteem Inventory

Items are either answered “like me” or “unlike me”. Please circle the answer that best fits you.

1. I often wish I were someone else. Like me Unlike me

2. I find it very hard to talk in front of a group. Like me Unlike me

3. There are a lot of things about myself I’d change if I could. Like me Unlike me

4. I can make up my mind without too much trouble. Like me Unlike me

5. I’m a lot of fun to be with. Like me Unlike me

6. I get upset easily at home. Like me Unlike me

7. It takes me a long time to get used to anything new. Like me Unlike me

8. I’m popular with the people my own age. Like me Unlike me

9. My family expects too much of me. Like me Unlike me

10. My family usually considers my feelings. Like me Unlike me

11. I give in very easily. Like me Unlike me

12. It is pretty tough to be me. Like me Unlike me

13. Things are all mixed up in my life. Like me Unlike me

14. Other people usually follow my ideas. Like me Unlike me

15. I have a low opinion of myself. Like me Unlike me

16. There are many times when I’d like to leave home. Like me Unlike me

17. I often feel upset about the work that I do. Like me Unlike me

18. I’m not as nice looking as most people. Like me Unlike me

19. If I have something to say, I usually say it. Like me Unlike me

20. Most people are better liked than I am. Like me Unlike me

21. I usually feel as if my family is pushing me. Like me Unlike me

22. I usually feel as if my family is pushing me. Like me Unlike me

23. I often get discouraged at what I am doing. Like me Unlike me

24. Things usually don’t bother me. Like me Unlike me

25. I can’t be depended on. Like me Unlike me

Age: _________

Gender: _____________

Submitted 4/30/01 8:16:39 PM
Last Edited 5/1/01 2:17:37 PM
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