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Deep Secrets

Deep Secrets

Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection

Niobe Way

ISBN 9780674072428

Publication date: 05/06/2013

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“Boys are emotionally illiterate and don’t want intimate friendships.” In this empirically grounded challenge to our stereotypes about boys and men, Niobe Way reveals the intense intimacy among teenage boys especially during early and middle adolescence. Boys not only share their deepest secrets and feelings with their closest male friends, they claim that without them they would go “wacko.” Yet as boys become men, they become distrustful, lose these friendships, and feel isolated and alone.

Drawing from hundreds of interviews conducted throughout adolescence with black, Latino, white, and Asian American boys, Deep Secrets reveals the ways in which we have been telling ourselves a false story about boys, friendships, and human nature. Boys’ descriptions of their male friendships sound more like “something out of Love Story than Lord of the Flies.” Yet in late adolescence, boys feel they have to “man up” by becoming stoic and independent. Vulnerable emotions and intimate friendships are for girls and gay men. “No homo” becomes their mantra.

These findings are alarming, given what we know about links between friendships and health, and even longevity. Rather than a “boy crisis,” Way argues that boys are experiencing a “crisis of connection” because they live in a culture where human needs and capacities are given a sex (female) and a sexuality (gay), and thus discouraged for those who are neither. Way argues that the solution lies with exposing the inaccuracies of our gender stereotypes and fostering these critical relationships and fundamental human skills.

Praise

  • [Deep Secrets] offers a surprising glimpse into the hearts of American boys, revealing a group of lonely young men who crave acceptance and belonging and deeply miss the friendships of their childhood...Compulsively readable...Way recounts the hundreds of interviews her team conducted in American high schools. The voices present are heartbreakingly authentic in revealing a pattern, a gradual drift away from "emotionally intimate same-sex friendships" with other boys and toward a destructive stereotype of manliness that perpetuate the false notion that "boys are only interested in one thing."

    —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Author

  • Niobe Way is Professor of Applied Psychology at New York University and director of the Ph.D. program in Developmental Psychology.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 0-7/8 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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