“I’ll do it from the top, like popular/cool, in-between/normal, loser and nerd” Factors that influence the emotional wellbeing of a group of Year 8 boys from one Christchurch intermediate school
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
There is a developing international understanding of the relationship between gender, wellbeing and educational outcomes. Wellbeing influences students’ abilities to learn and emotional wellbeing is fundamental to children’s learning and ability to develop positive relationships with others. Research has found that those who have emotional competencies and skills find it easier to manage themselves, relate to others, resolve conflict, and feel positive about themselves and the world around them (CASEL, 2003; Greatz, 2008). Boys’ emotional wellbeing has been a particular focus of the discussion because of their lack of engagement at school and increasing levels of violence and bullying. This qualitative study investigated the factors that influenced the emotional wellbeing of a group of 12 year old boys in their final year of primary school. This age group was the focus of this research as it is a transitional age in relation to puberty and secondary school. The study involved one adult listening to, and making meaning from eight young boys’ perceptions of their world during a semi-structured interview with two focus groups. Analysing the data involved the qualitative strategy of thematic analysis where themes and categories were identified and then further analysed for corresponding linkages and relationships. The findings identified a multifaceted range of factors that influenced boys’ emotional wellbeing. Family, friendships, school and the wider community were all specifically identified as enhancing or harming emotional wellbeing. Strongly underpinning all of the factors was the influence of normalised gendered behaviours within different social contexts that enforced conformity towards a hegemonic form of masculinity. Boys’ failure to follow the ‘rules’ assigned to a social groupings hegemonic form of masculinity, ran the risk for them of being relegated to a lower rank, being unable to manage or express emotions, being excluded, or becoming the victim of bullying. The research concluded that boys need support in developing a wide range of personal and interpersonal skills and strategies to enhance emotional wellbeing. Underpinning the development of these skills however, is the need for a safe and supportive home, peer group and school environment where students can be empowered to think critically and deconstruct the way in which gender norms influence social interaction and behaviour. Peers, teachers, schools, families and the wider community working in synergy are crucial to developing an approach that addresses and enhances emotional wellbeing.