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Boys, Bullying, and Gender Roles: How Hegemonic Masculinity Shapes Bullying Behavior

Abstract

During adolescence, schools and peers are salient agents of gender socialization. Specifically, bullying is a common experience for many adolescents. While existing research has examined how bullying differs for girls and boys, very little has examined the ways that bullying serves to reinforce masculinity. This study combines quantitative and qualitative data to examine how bullying reinforces a specific lens of masculinity. By focusing on the experiences of bullying among middle school boys across the United States, we find that the context of school, peers, and bullying contributes to the social construction of masculinity for adolescents. By conducting a content analysis of data provided by victims, we find that many of the experiences of bullying are grounded in, or interpreted through, hegemonic masculinity. Four key themes that emerged from the data include the importance of heterosexuality, physical dominance and intimidation, acceptance and normalization of violence, and how gender intersects with other social locations. Findings from this study offer insight into how adolescent bullying perpetuates notions of masculine dominance and gender inequalities.

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Notes

  1. In earlier analyses, we compared the group of 275 boys who provided qualitative data with the 622 identified victims of bullying who did not provide a quote. These two groups did not vary on any demographic characteristic other than grade level, with those who provided a quote being slightly younger. Those who provided quotes did report significantly more frequent and subjectively more harmful bullying than victims who did not include qualitative data. A full comparison of these groups is available on request.

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Correspondence to Nicole L. Rosen.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. As a secondary data source, data for this manuscript received permission from Penn State University’s Institute Review Board. In addition the IRB at The University of Akron was consulted and the project registered with “exempt from review” status.

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Rosen, N.L., Nofziger, S. Boys, Bullying, and Gender Roles: How Hegemonic Masculinity Shapes Bullying Behavior. Gend. Issues 36, 295–318 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12147-018-9226-0

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Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Hegemonic masculinity
  • Gender
  • School
  • Gender socialization