“I Don't Really Have Time for People Who Get Moody”: Young Men Negotiating Emotions in Education Contexts.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:49
Location: Hörsaal 47 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sue NICHOLS, University of South Australia, Australia
Garth STAHL, University of South Australia, Australia
This in-depth case study project involved 16 Australian male high school graduates over the course of the year in a series of interviews. The study focused on masculine identity formation in the transition from adolescent to adulthood and the role of boys’ social contexts in this process. A grounded theory approach was taken to analysing the interview transcripts. This paper will draw on data from the first interview, in which the young men reflected on their school experiences and the second, in which they compared school to tertiary education settings. One of the strong themes emerging from this analysis was the role of emotion regulation in sustaining male peer social networks in the school setting. Specifically, the boys learned, from their participation in male friendship groups at school, how to avoid experiencing intense feelings and thus avert the risk of appearing emotional. We will show how, through a gendering of the meaning of emotion, girls were attributed with inherent emotionality which was seen by the boys as prone to spill out, producing “drama”. We argue that the social space of school, which produces a high degree of visibility for identity performances, creates a high risk environment for males to be explicitly emotional. We identify some regulatory mechanisms which, the boys report, assist in sustaining an even emotional tone in the male peer environment. One of these is “paying out”, an Australian colloquial term for banter, which is an important competency for successful male peer group membership. Through ritual insults, boys probed each other’s sensitivity and hardened each other to emotional attacks. In the process, boys learned who they could trust and how to be trusted and, paradoxically, experienced positive emotions associated with belonging.