Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy




There has been longstanding concern over the seemingly intractable problem of boys’ academic achievement. Despite extensive research, there is little consensus among researchers and educators regarding best practices and approaches in mitigating and remediating the problem. This mixed-methods study sought to illuminate the issue further by focusing on the meaningful lived experiences of six young men aged 18 to 24 who attended and graduated from a central Massachusetts public high school. The study asked participants to reflect through prompted writing upon the stresses and pressures as well as the factors and conditions that affected their abilities to manage their performativities in constructing masculine identities. Elements of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) and narrative analysis were used to analyze participants’ electronically submitted written accounts, which were further contextualized by the scores of each participant’s Male Role Norms Inventory—Revised (MRNI-R). Multiple thematic consistencies emerged that indicated adolescent males are experiencing meaningful levels of stress and anxiety in the gendered expression of their social, emotional, and academic selves. Direct sources of stress and anxiety included peers, families, and teachers. Participants also noted societal endorsement and surveillance of the hegemonic masculine norm as factors affecting their ability to manage and maintain social proprioception during their high school years. The key conclusions drawn from the study indicate that adolescent males experience destabilizing anxiety as a result of sanctioning surveillance of multiple aspects of their masculinity performances by peers and adults. Perceived expectations around aggressive sexuality and emotional stoicism as well as and confusion around sufficiently “safe” academic achievement consistently caused participants to experience isolation, frustration, and anxiety. Key recommendations include changes in teacher preparation programming to accommodate extensive study of gender construction in children and adolescents to both expand the understanding of prospective teachers in dealing with a wide range of gendered expression and to minimize the adverse effects of imported gender biases. Future research should include more authentic voices of adolescent and young adult males in order to generate findings that may improve the social, emotional, and academic well-being of this demographic.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.




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