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While trying to get close to a 14-year-old male can be fraught, boys even up to 18 years old need to have their parents available as a fallback. Cutting them loose too early can signal that there is no net and if they want one, they’ll have to seek it elsewhere.
In fact, adolescence should be a time when boys’ fathers are there in the front of the picture physically and emotionally. And if not a father, then another significant male standing alongside providing that physical presence and emotional support.
Up to the time of the Industrial Revolution boys always had their fathers or other older males around them as they grew. More often than not, they went on to work alongside their fathers and their uncles. However, in recent history men have begun working long hours and have been around less and less and yet it seems that girls have never lost having their mothers and significant female adults around.
So, are our young males in crisis? Possibly. As one researcher has put it, the "evolutionary legacy each boy carries with him" is being neglected and not evolving with the times. And the outcomes are not always positive or pleasant. Young males dominate the news in terms of beatings, child abuse, child murder, sexual assault, and other anti-social behaviour.
And yet there are also many young males doing and achieving amazing things. And many more just getting on with their lives in socially acceptable ways. However, while the concept of what is acceptable female behaviour has become very broad, our concept of masculinity hasn’t broadened and may even have narrowed.
Boys learn much about their role in society from women and what they’ve been hearing women and girls saying, almost unrelentingly, has not been good. Certainly, and for so many understandable reasons of late, maleness isn’t being celebrated in the way that femaleness has been.
This leaves a sense that our society is pulling the rug from under the feet of many of our young men, including those just getting on with their lives in socially positive and constructive ways. The result is confusion about how to be male, growing mental health issues, growing intolerance of those seen to be threatening them and the sort of desperate backlash very evident of late among white American males.
Positive paternal parenting is needed now more than ever.