A Flinders research project may offer some unique insights into the perennial nature versus nurture debate.
The School of Education’s Associate Professor Murray Drummond [pictured] is conducting a longitudinal study tracking the perceptions of sport, health and masculinity of a group of 33 boys from Reception to Year 7.
And he is using a novel approach: he is asking the boys themselves.
“For too long we’ve not taken children’s’ voices seriously, particularly those in early childhood years,” Associate Professor Drummond said.
“Often, it was a case of ‘children should be seen and not heard’ – at least until a certain age,” he said.
“But if you develop appropriate methodologies to actually obtain those voices, what children say can have very powerful messages.”
By relating to the boys through subjects that interest them, and asking them to draw pictures in response to specific questions, Associate Professor Drummond already has an interesting finding in the first year of the project.
“When asked to draw what a man looks like, the majority of boys – even if they drew stick figures – drew bulging biceps or muscles along the arms and legs,” he said.
“It seems that even at age of five or six, boys’ concept of a man is muscley. And their idea of masculinity is about being more powerful and stronger and faster than girls. It’s very similar to what adult men say about masculinity – that it’s about not being weak or feminine. It happens that early.
“This can give us some insights into the way masculinity develops from childhood through adolescence and into early adulthood.”
Associate Professor Drummond said aspects of the methodology would be adapted for the Future Voices research project led by Professor Andrew Beer into the connections between voicelessness and homelessness of young people.
It is one of a number of similar interdisciplinary research projects into aspects of health and physical activity that Associate Professor Drummond will oversee as leader of the emerging Sport, Health and Physical Education (SHAPE) research group.
“The focus will be largely around children, physical education, health and physical activity, but also about our responsibilities as educators,” he said.
“It’s too easy to point the finger at someone and say you’re overweight. We also need to be mindful of what’s going on in our broader society and the culture in which we live.
“Our industrialised society, the use of cars, fast food advertising – all of these things are impacting on our health and as health professionals we cannot victim blame. It’s more than that.”