Throughout this book, we have emphasised how rich and full of expression the accounts boys give of their lives can be. The image of the angrily grunting and inarticulate teenager is not one which stands up to scrutiny when one looks at what can happen when boys are given the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and are encouraged to talk. It is worthy of note that almost all the boys who were interviewed individually became engaged in very thoughtful and rich discussions with the interviewer, often entrusting him with deeply felt material which they seemingly did not speak about elsewhere. Material of this kind included uncertainties over friendships, disappointments with parents, anger with absent or unavailable fathers, feelings of rejection and ‘stuckness’ in relationships, ideas about girls and fears and aspirations for the future. All this suggests that, given the right circumstances, boys can be very thoughtful about themselves and their predicament. Even at age 11, they are often capable of reflecting in a complex way on how their actual lives are at odds with what they would wish them to be, and even about how constraining certain aspects of masculine identity might be for them. They often spoke particularly poignantly about losses in their lives and also about how much value they placed upon parents who attended to them sensitively and seriously — and how disappointed they were by parents who did not.
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