By Brian Johnsrud
Boys will be boys. For years, the male gender has been casually stereotyped as more aggressive, mean, and disruptive than females. Most people remember from their childhood that one boy who sat at the back of the school room cracking jokes and disrupting the class. All together, boys do tend to mature at different levels than females. But, in the past few years, that boy in the back of the class may have changed a bit.
Recently, a study of 452 fourth, fifth, and sixth grade boys showed that one third of the antisocial and disruptive students were considered "popular." Surveys involving the student and teachers opinions on the attitudes of the selected boys, rating them in categories including popularity, cliques, appearance, aggression, and "coolness" were given. These confidential surveys were offered to classrooms in the Chicago and South Carolina regions.
Why are these students so violent and accepted? Experts on the experiment found that it was a self image that was created. A power situation had been set up in the boys minds, they could get what they want and be respected for it. Dr. Philip Rodkin, a psychologist at Duke University, and a leader on the experiment, noticed not only that students were clearly defined as dominant, or submissive to the aggressive boys. "I think that aggression, if it's used skillfully, can in most cases work for children and adults to get what they want..."
The strongest point, perhaps, made by this study was the vast difference between ethnic majorities and their attitudes. African-American students were the bulk of the rowdy boys. The team suggested that having a hard emotional personality covers up for the weakness in numbers of African-American students in the schools compared to the number of white students. "Racial diversity has a lot more potential to be fractious. It's complex, and we want this diversity in the classroom, but it's part of the social context and the culture that's recreated in the classroom which may be tense." said Rodkin. He said that a very small amount of girls portrayed this same behavior, as it seemed to make them disliked.
But, is it background that gives males this attitude, or is it genetics? A new study states that a low amount of a stress hormone may cause this personality in boys. Out of those aged 7- to 12-year-olds who had low levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the body, had three times as much aggression. That may be one of the main reasons for children who sporadically have had a attitude change to become hostile. Also, the students with low levels of cortisol were three times more likely to be considered mean by the students with higher levels of this hormone.
Either way, there is a clear problem in classrooms with disruptive behavior from boys. These two studies hope to find some way to solve that, or to provide an environment where it can be controlled. A student involved in Rodkin's study commented, "Yeah I'm really popular AND I'm mean as hell!"