When Judy Y. Chu first encountered the four-year-old boys we meet in this book, they were experiencing a social initiation into boyhood. They were initially astute in picking up on other people’s emotions, emotionally present in their relationships, and competent in their navigation of the human social world. However, the boys gradually appeared less perceptive, articulate, and responsive, and became more guarded and subdued in their relationships as they learned to prove that they are boys primarily by showing that they are not girls. Based on a two-year study of boys aged four to six, When Boys Become Boys offers a new way of thinking about boys’ development. Chu finds that behaviors typically viewed as “natural” for boys reflect an adaptation to cultures that require boys to be emotionally stoic, competitive, and aggressive if they are to be accepted as “real boys.” Yet even as boys begin to reap the social benefits of aligning with norms of masculine behavior, they pay a psychological and relational price for hiding parts of their authentic selves. Through documenting boys’ perceptions of the obstacles they face and the pressures they feel to conform, and showing that their compliance with norms of masculine behavior is neither automatic nor inevitable, this accessible and engaging book provides insight into ways in which adults can foster boys’ healthy resistance and help them to access a broader range of options for expressing themselves.
"In this provocative and beautifully written book, Judy Chu reveals that we have been telling ourselves a false story about boys and their development. Boys, she finds, don’t start off being the emotionally disconnected stereotype that our culture projects onto them. They become those stereotypes via cultural socialization. Yet boys also resist, and maintain their humanity despite living in a culture that denies it to them. A must read for anyone interested in boys."
"Reading When Boys Become Boys has significantly altered my thinking about what it means to be a boy."
“Chu presents an engaging observational study, taking as her subjects six preschool boys, much in the tradition of Vivian Paley's Superheroes in the Doll Corner (CH, Jan'85). A foreword by Carol Gilligan, who sponsored the original research, sets the tone of this study as an inv
estigation of the ways boys establish the social and emotional habits that allow them to navigate the world of the boy group and later the world of men. The critical focus is on how boys understand the relational world in the preschool years, and how they maintain their relational capacities while learning gender roles. The text is full of delicately observed descriptions and verbatim discussions between Chu and the boys. […] Depth is added by inclusion of interviews with parents and by the contributions of teachers, giving some background to the children's views of gender. Helpful notes add value. This volume will be excellent supplemental classroom reading and a helpful guide for observational projects, and the style and topic extend the book's audience beyond the academy. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”
"[H]er book offers an insightful portrait of group interactions and hierarchy in boys. She convincingly makes the case that, being human, boys share with girls the capacity to relate."
“To what extent are ‘masculine’ qualities innate? This is just one of the questions that Judy Y. Chu sets out to answer in her book When Boys Become Boys, based on a two-year study in which she observed a group of six boys from pre-kindergarten to grade one (age four to six) at a US school….Ultimately, When Boys Become Boys is not a critique of prevailing masculine ideals but a plea for adults to help boys resist societal pressures so that they do not feel compelled to censor, distort or misrepresent themselves in order to accommodate these externally imposed standards.”
"Chu writes in a manner that is easy to understand and as she bases her research on relational theory, she often comes back to and describe the ways in which relationships become the basis for the boys in her study. Parents will also find this book valuable as they navigate early childhood with their child or children."
"Chu possesses three rare gifts: she gets boys to open up to her and describe their lives in gorgeous detail; she listens with extraordinary compassion, and she analyzes their experiences with the meticulous care of both finely tuned head and heart. In so doing, she gives us a single gift both rare and precious: a look inside the world of boys, wriggling between demands about performing for others, and eager to be who they really are."