While most men do not condone violence, most violence, against women or men, is committed by men. Although targeting boys and men for preventive intervention would seem to provide the greatest return for our investment, most interventions have historically been victim-centered. Fortunately, a paradigmatic shift in our public health approach to violence prevention now calls for efforts to engage boys and young men in addressing this critical public health dilemma. A key premise of this approach is to establish male allies and leaders in pioneering culture change among boys and men at risk for perpetrating violence.
Men who commit violence were not born perpetrators. They were boys first. Many were boys who themselves have witnessed or been victims of violence, which is a known risk factor for emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal functioning. For some, it can start very early in life, with violence between adults in the caregiving environment. One out of 4 children under the age of 6 have been exposed to some form of interpersonal violence.
Another factor contributing to unhealthy interpersonal functioning, and in some cases, violence, has to do with our gender stereotyped culture, in which masculinity is narrowly associated with being emotionally stoic, strong, and domineering, and femininity with emotionally lability, fragility, and caregiving. Socially constructed gender roles put heavy pressure on boys and men to perpetuate a system with different gender expectations of boys and girls.
Our newest policy brief looks at several prevention efforts on both a national and state (Connecticut) level seeking to promote healthy relationships and non-violence and how that change might impact outcomes for boys and young men.