What a boy wants

Conventional wisdom suggests that teenage boys have one thing on their minds. And it’s not history class. Statistics that support this theory abound: Teenage boys have testosterone surges multiple times a day. Teenage boys think about sex an average of every 28 seconds. The theories go on.

A study was recently published in the Journal of Adolescence called “I wanted to get to know her better”: Adolescent boy’s dating motives, masculinity ideology, and sexual behavior. (The first thing this proves, of course, is academics’ inability to create a short and snappy title.) The results from this study suggested that, while teen boys are not dis-interested in the physical, they are at least as interested, if not more interested, in building a good relationship with someone they really liked.

I like this study. I like it when researchers try to get past the conventional, stereotypical assumptions that inhabit most of our world and find out what’s really going on. I like it that they tried to create a study that actually got to know teenage boys rather than pigeonhole them.

Do I put substantial weight on the results of the study? Honestly, as a researcher and a statistician, I’m not sure.

Why did this study come up with different results from so many others? Can the results be replicated? What’s the researcher biased? Were the questions slanted? Is there a peer-group effect going on here? Basically, I want the differences between this research and past research and conventional wisdom explained before I jump excitedly on-board and start singing the results from the rooftops.

However, as a parent and a sex educator, I absolutely put substantial weight on the results of this study. I choose to believe that all people have the best possible motivations for their actions, including teenage boys.

It is critical that we interact with teenage boys with the assumption that they want high quality, mutually satisfying, and emotionally supportive romantic relationships.

Teenage boys are much more likely to live up to our assumptions and expectations of them than to put their own personal expectations far higher than those we set. This is really true of most people in most situations.

As parents of teenage girls this does not mean, of course, that we let every boy who comes over stay the night in our daughter’s bedroom because he probably means well. But it does mean that we treat him and his relationship with our daughter with respect and approval.

Teach teenage boys how to engage respectfully by respecting them. Assume the best of them so that they can assume the best of you. Get to know the teenage boys in your life so that they will want to get to know you.

Forget the statistics about teenage boys when you meet an actual teenage boy. Because when you do, there will be one individual standing in front of you. Maybe he is average. Maybe he is not. Regardless, the only way to know for sure is to get to know him.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Here, here to this post! Well said, as always.

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  3. yes they always think of that

  4. What would you know, your not a boy!!

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