Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
That innocent, preteen peck on the cheek at Christmas, lovingly captured on a grainy home video: The things children do never fail to tug at our heartstrings, but a new study suggests these seemingly naive relationships of friendship and affection may be under threat from an unwritten playground rule known as “heterosexual teasing.”
The Telegraph reports that research conducted by Professor Emma Renold at Cardiff University, in conjunction with the NSPCC, has shed light on the pressure preteen boys —` and girls — feel to label their friendships as something more. And, the reason behind this rather sad situation? It appears to stem from the stigma attached to young girls and boys "hanging out," and sharing similar interests.
One hundred twenty five children ages 10, 11, and 12 took part in the study, and Renold’s findings were pretty fascinating. Explaining that children felt like they couldn’t opt out of the expectation of inter-sexual friendships evolving into relationships, she told The Telegraph, “Children are actively learning everyday about the contradictory and often confusing ways in which gender and sexuality shape who they are, how they feel in their bodies, what they can do, where they can go, how they relate to others, and how others relate to them." Other disturbing findings from the study revolved around the playground culture of being a couple, and the popularity that came with it. The young girls interviewed referred to being in a relationship at a young age as part of being a "normal girl" and "something you had to get used to," while boys found it easier to deny any involvement with female friends. Further findings revealed that girls felt they had to "put up with living in a sexist society” and were constantly being “watched and judged” – something that was far less evident for the boys.
The sensitive nature of Renolds’ study and its disconcerting revelations are truly sad, but where do we pin the blame? Who do we point the finger at? As much as popular culture’s depiction of young women and men is responsible for children growing up too quickly, are we properly educating the future generations on the true values of male and female friendship, and the various guises it can take? Guess it's back to the playground on this one. (The Telegraph)