The mission of the Santa Fe Boys Educational Foundation is to broaden the conversation by supporting public discourse, projects, and research to better understand the unique developmental needs of young males.
Infant Boys’ Vulnerabilities and Adolescent and Adult Male Susceptibilities, Attachment Theory and Psychoanalytic Perspectives
Empirical research for the past two decades indicates that boys and girls start life with different endowments or emotional tendencies based upon the influence of gender-specific genetic and environmental factors.1 Further, these studies on early childhood development increasingly show that infant boys and girls display different responses to parental misattunement. Boys appear to be more sensitive to the quality of parenting and attention in the earliest years with research indicating that when caregiving is inadequate, boys are more likely to exhibit problematic externalizing behaviors which set the stage for additional problems in preschool and school settings. The SFBEF works to address problems of boys in the earliest years of their lives, both to prevent future disturbances and also because later interventions often prove to be less effective. Hence, research and projects that address the earliest years are of primary interested to the Foundation along with public information events to inform the public about young male development.
Psychologists and others interested in child development have known for some time that a secure attachment to caregivers early in life provides a child with developmental advantages. These include, for example, a strong sense of self, successful intimate relationships, and a sophisticated understanding of emotions. In contrast, children who grow up with insecure or disorganized attachments often suffer handicaps as they mature. These handicaps are sometimes referred to as non-cognitive learning disorders, which include lack of motivation, difficulty to focus on a task, and problems with self-control and aggression. In addition, research has shown that boys, especially, are more likely to project the fear and isolation that often accompany poor attachment outcomes onto school situations, and this, in turn, can set them up for a life of failure and an inability to participate in a growing modern economy. Thus the foundation has a strong interest in attachment-oriented research as well as projects that take attachment dynamics into consideration.
Because of this greater male gender-specific biological and psychodynamic sensitivity to maternal caretaking, the SFBEF is also concerned with these basic vulnerabilities in male developmental psychodynamics.2 In particular, the Foundation is interested in key issues pertaining to a boy’s potentially fraught asymmetrical relationship with his mother in the context of enigmatic messages about males and identification with and by both parents, his need to differentiate from his mother and develop his “male gender identity,” his unique struggles in integrating his identifications with both his mother and father, and subsequent challenges in negotiating his individuation, and child and adolescent passages. Hence the foundation seeks to address—through conferences, research, and funding projects—efforts to better understand the particular psychodynamics of young males.
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McGinnis, E., Bockneck, E., Beeghly, M., Rosenblum, K.L., and Muzik, M. (2013). Does child sex moderate vulnerability to postpartum risk in infants of mothers with maltreatment histories? Unpublished Manuscript.
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