January 20, 2019

Traditional Masculinity Can Hurt Boys, Say New A.P.A. Guidelines

The guidelines add that men and boys have historically been considered a “normative referent” for psychology. In other words, men — especially white, heterosexual men — were overrepresented in Western studies, and their psychological needs and habits were considered more universal than they actually were.

That flattened the field of psychology for everyone, said Matt Englar-Carlson, a professor of counseling at California State University at Fullerton who is also a lead writer of the new guidelines. “The feminist movement in the ’60s and ’70s began to encourage us to look at women as gendered beings, and the men’s movement in psychology really benefited from that,” he said.

So it is no surprise that the A.P.A. guidelines for girls and women came out so much earlier, according to Dr. Chu.

“When boys and men challenge patriarchal constructions of gender, they’re at risk of being perceived as failures, or as weak,” she said. But she added that when women, girls and nonbinary people criticized patriarchal systems that oppressed them, another idea began to take shape: Maybe those systems hurt men, too, even as they conferred certain privileges.

“It brought to light issues that were being overlooked because there was a taboo against talking about it,” Dr. Chu said.

The new guidelines will expire in about 10 years to make room for evolving ideas. Until then, the writers said, they are meant to serve as a resource for psychologists, whose practice should still be defined by the needs of the individual people they work with.

“Psychologists are encouraged to see men as being impacted by culture, by race and by relationships, rather than just assuming that there is one sort of standardized set of behaviors,” Dr. Rabinowitz said. “We want people to be aware that men are complex beings.”

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