[EDEQUITY Dialogue] Opening Statement

From: Catherine.P.Dooley
Date: Fri Dec 08 2000 - 17:32:00 EST

     I am a faculty member at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute,
which is based at the Stone Center at Wellesley College in Boston MA. where
I co-direct the Mother-Son Project and also serve as a member of the
Co-education Project at the Center's Gender Institute. On a more personal
note, I am the mother of two teen-age boys who have provided me with a
built in home laboratory for the last 16 years! My work with boys is
grounded in Relational Theory. This theory takes into account the impact of
cultural attitudes and expectations on development. Traditional
developmental theories are largely based on culturally bound male
development and, as such, do not acknowledge the importance of emotional
and relational development and competence. Instead, psychological health is
based on the individual's ability to be autonomous, self-sufficient,
competitive and independent, in short, on attributes which place the self
in a primary position. Relational Theory was developed in the seventies by
Jean Baker Miller and colleagues at the Stone Center as an alternative to
these traditional male-based models. This new theory highlighted emotional
and relational competence as key to psychological health. Although this
theory was originally developed as a way of understanding girls' and
women's development, my colleagues and I have spent the last decade
applying the concepts of Relational Theory to boys' and men's' development.

     Traditional models limit developmental possibilities for males in our
culture. Boys learn to disconnect from their feelings and from real
relationship. They become isolated, unable to identify or express their
inner states and often resort to acting out emotions through aggression or
self-destructive behaviors. My work addresses the missing emotional and
relational developmental piece for boys. I am involved in a number of
different projects, developing models for parents and teachers to use with
boys, which address relational and emotional competence. Cultural issues
which limit boys are outlined at each developmental stage and specific
strategies are offered for teaching boys how to counter these forces and
how to develop better relational skills. I have worked with parents and
with boys in peer group settings and have seen significant change happen in
these homes and communities. Although this is hopeful progress, I believe
that in order to make this shift at a cultural level, we need to introduce
relational models to boys in legitimate institutional settings, like the
school, where new behaviors are introduced to boys by respected authority
figures (teachers), in a group setting with their peers.

     My colleague and I have published a developmental model for raising
relational boys, which is available through Wellesley College's Centers for
Research for Women. We outline cultural issues and the problems they create
for boys at each of four developmental stages. Relational alternatives are
outlined for each stage as well as extensive concrete strategies that can
be used to help boys learn relational skills. Real examples are used to
illustrate the model. We have had an overwhelming response and interest in
the work, especially by mothers of sons. At this point, we have met with
thousands of mothers of sons in workshops who come desperate for help in
countering this cultural force that we call "Boy Culture". We have also
brought this model to teachers, and boys in and out of school settings. I
am frequently asked to speak with parent, teacher and other professional
groups about how to foster boys' emotional and relational development
without alienating them from their "Boy Culture" peers in the process. I
feel privileged to have been a part of an evolutionary process for boys (my
own two sons included) for the past fifteen or so years. The change I have
seen in terms of greater relational possibilities for boys heartens me and
gives me great hope for the future.

Catherine (Cate) Dooley

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Fri Apr 12 2002 - 15:15:58 EDT