Niobe Way

Why "boys will be boys" is a myth—and a harmful one at that

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About Niobe Way

In an age of increasing rates of loneliness, suicide, and mass violence, Niobe Way is an internationally recognized leader in the study of social and emotional development among adolescents. She is particularly focused on boys and young men and why they are at greater risk for such problems than girls and women. She currently is a Professor of Developmental Psychology and the founder of the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity at New York University (PACH; She is also past President of the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) and co-director of the Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education at NYU. Niobe has authored nearly a hundred journal articles and numerous books, including Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection (Harvard University Press) and Everyday Courage: The Lives and Stories of Urban Teenagers (NYU Press). Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, The National Science Foundation, The William T. Grant Foundation, The Einhorn Family Charitable Trust Foundation, The Spencer Foundation and numerous other foundations. She is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and has recently become an online contributor for Psychology Today.

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About This Talk

“Boys will be boys.” It’s a phrase that's often used to describe the mischievous, competitive, or aggressive behavior of some boys and men. However, when we use this phrase, we may not realize that we’re helping to perpetuate a stereotype. In an era of increasing rates of suicide and violence among boys and young men, our cultural fixation on men being strong, autonomous, and emotionless deserves to be reevaluated.

Adolescent development researcher Niobe Way has spent decades interviewing adolescent boys about their feelings, relationships, and the expectations they face to “man up” as they grow up. Her research findings highlight the fact that boys, like all humans, are empathic and yearn for close friendships more than anything else. Watch Niobe’s 2018 TEDMED Talk to understand how reimagining boys in the 21st century will free them, as well as everyone else, to see their own humanity and the humanity of others. 

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