Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood

William S. Pollack, Author
William S. Pollack, Author Random House (NY) $24.95 (447p) ISBN 978-0-375-50131-9
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
In a lucidly written primer for parents, Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor Pollack dismantles what he terms ""the Boy Code""--society's image of boys as tough, cool, rambunctious and obsessed with sports, cars and sex. These stereotypes, he argues, thwart creativity and originality in boys. Linking clinical insights to practical suggestions, Pollack advises caregivers how to help boys repair their fragile self-esteem, develop empathy and explore their sensitive sides. Drawing on his clinical experience as well as an ongoing Harvard research project, he offers advice on ""attention deficit disorder""-- which, he maintains, is often a misdiagnosis for normal high-energy behavior-- recognizing signs of depression, discouraging violence and helping boys cope with their parents' divorce. In discussing homosexuality, he notes that many of the assumptions of the psychiatric profession have been shown to be incorrect, such as that homosexuality was abnormal, a psychological disorder. Pollack's glorification of sports as an arena for self-transformation and emotional openness is counterbalanced by his recognition that athletics often encourages brutal competitiveness. His proposal that schools adopt curricula ""on traditionally `male' and `female' topics"" to spark separately the interests of boys and girls seems at odds with his own imperative to break through gender stereotypes. On balance, though, his manual is enlightening and stimulating. Author tour. (July)
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