My interest in male psychology began when I was the only woman working with a crew engaged in salvage diving: divers, deckhands, researcher and ship’s cook. That was before I trained as a psychologist.
What impressed me most about that experience was the way in which the men depended on one another...and how this dependency led them to look out for one another’s mental, as well as physical, health. They achieved that in subtle ways - ways which were very different from those I had experienced in groups and hierarchies of women. I felt that, without that support, those men might have felt more vulnerable, especially if they didn’t have a partner or close family.
Later, as part of my degree, I studied a course called Images of Masculinity and came to appreciate a little more about men’s concerns and the construction of a male identity. My interest was intensified as I was a mother of two sons.
Now, as a developmental psychologist, my study and research has made me appreciate the differences between the aptitudes, behaviours and preferences of males and females and that researchers have found that these differences appear from very early in infancy. Raising healthy boys and men involves acceptance of some specific needs and offering suitable support so that their ability to contribute to their own family’s welfare and that of their immediate and wider society is maximised. Yet, in today’s society, the needs of boys and men are not always acknowledged or provided for. Ensuring that men and masculinity are respected and supported can benefit a whole community, as was the case for that crew on board ship.
Dr Brenda Todd is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at City University London, specialising in developmental psychology. Her recent paper with John Barry and Sara Thommessen on gender differences in children's preference for toys has reached a wide audience