EREA Adolescent Men’s Project 2021

Throughout 2019 and 2020, Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) and Jesuit Social Services worked in partnership to ascertain boys’ attitudes towards what it means to be a man. VicHealth contributed to the funding of this project. The research was conducted in an all-boys school in the Southern Region of EREA (Vic/Tas) and four schools from the Flexible Schools Network in the Northern Region (Qld). See below for the Adolescent Man Box Report: A study on the attitudes to manhood of adolescent boys.

Adolescent Man Box Report 2020: Download

The first step in creating more positive attitudes for boys was to better understand the nature of their endorsement of stereotypical masculine norms as well as the association between this endorsement and wellbeing, attitudes, and behaviour. The next phase of the study is known as the EREA Adolescent Men’s Project. The study invites all EREA schools in the Southern Region to participate.


Through fostering positive attitudes and enabling student voice, the EREA Adolescent Men’s Project hopes to assist adolescent boys to improve their well-being, form greater positive self-concept, engage in safer behaviour, and develop more respectful and fulfilling relationships with the people in their lives.

Aims are to evaluate:

1. the boys’ perception of social pressures to endorse adolescent masculine norms;

2. the level of the boys’ personal endorsement of adolescent masculine norms;

3. the well-being of the adolescent boys in this study across a range of variables related to their self-concept, mental health, relationships and risk-taking behaviour;

4. the impact of personal endorsement on different areas of adolescent boys’ lives, including their mental health, self-concept, violence, bullying, sexual harassment, risk-taking behaviour and sexist attitudes and behaviour.


The EREA Adolescent Men’s Project is drawn from Oranksy and Fisher’s (2009) Meaning of Adolescent Masculinity Scale. This scale evaluates the set of beliefs within society that place pressure on adolescent boys to act in a certain way. The study explores how adolescent boys encounter rules in society and internalise them personally by asking their views on messages about how a “real man” should behave.

1. Constant effort to be manly: the pressure to maintain a strong and confident persona in order to be manly;

2. Emotional restriction: the pressure to hide emotions and remain emotionally vulnerable;

3. Heterosexism: the pressure to avoid behaviour traditionally considered feminine or “gay” in order to appear masculine;

4. Social teasing: the pressure to tease their friends and stand up to such teasing when it is directed at them in order to be masculine.


In addition to the Four Pillars above the following themes are explored:


Physical abilities, physical appearance, same-sex friendship relationships, opposite-sex friendship relationships, honesty/trustworthiness, parent relationships, emotional stability, school and general self-concept.

Psychological Distress

Anxiety symptoms (eg nervousness and restlessness) and depressive symptoms (eg tiredness with no good reason, feeling as though everything was an effort).

Bullying and Physical Violence

Adolescent boys’ experience and perpetration of verbal, physical, and online bullying and violence.

Risk-taking behaviour

The relationship between masculinity and overt risk-taking behaviours in relation to physical fights, and helmet use when riding a bicycle. Years 9-12 students were asked about illicit drug use and safe sex practices.

Relationships and Family

Students were asked questions about their view of relationships and a man’s role in the family.

Societal Messages

Boys were asked about the extent to which they received messages from society that a guy should behave in a particular way in relation to Constant Efforts to be Manly, Emotional Restriction, Heterosexism and Social Teasing.

School Implementation Teams

The Principal invites and/or appoints members from the staff and school community to be on a working group that will work with the EREA research team and the other working groups within that region, to drive the project within that community and region, from data collection, through reporting, planning and review.  The local working group will report to the School Leadership Team. The survey is administered by the EREA Research Centre in collaboration with the local working group.  Data will be collated, interpreted and reported by the EREA Research Centre.

Student Participation Survey

Surveys are conducted as part of EREA’s Adolescent Men’s Project to gauge students’ views on societal messages about how a man should behave. All data is deidentified.

Staff Experience Survey

Staff from participating schools will be invited to participate in a survey that asks questions about their perceptions of the student/staff relationships within the school context. The questions will pertain to levels of respect and masculine norms listed above.

Student Focus Groups

To complement and allow for more detailed understanding of the issues covered in the online survey, focus groups comprising six to eight students per group will be conducted. Students will be asked questions exploring the themes in the student survey.

Reporting on the Data at Regional and School Level

The gathered data from the student survey, focus groups and staff experience survey will be analysed by the EREA Adolescent Men’s Project Team and this will generate two reports. The first will present the project methodology, regional data and findings at the regional level. The second version will present a report for each school leadership team that presents the project methodology, school data and findings particular to that school.

Planning Informed by the Data

At a school level, the data informs whole school development and can be used to track progress of attitudes and behaviours over time. The project will provide an opportunity for schools to better understand how their students are progressing on critical aspects of wellbeing. The research can also be used to assist in the development of tailor-made programs for specific cohorts of students.


Each school’s participation in the project is voluntary. Each student’s participation in the project is voluntary.