The science of why Australian country boys are so angry

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  • The latest research shows exposure to racism, homophobia, family influence and the media help make aggressive behaviour seem normal in rural adolescent boys.
  • An Australian study asked 187 rural boys aged 12 to 17 about what makes them angry and likely to be aggressive, as well as about their own experience with violence.
  • Influences, including racism, homophobia and the media, all promote a stereotyped aggressive masculinity that is accepted within their subculture but is not reflective of wider societal norms.

Why are country boys in Australia so angry?

To find out, Australian researchers asked them. Eight themes emerged.

The personal themes were racism, homophobia, family influences, and media influence. The others were more situational, including alcohol, territorialism, school context, and peer pressure.

These factors all worked together to make aggressive behaviour seem normal in rural adolescent boys, according to the research.

And these influences and factors all promoted a stereotyped aggressive masculinity that is accepted within their subculture but is not reflective of wider societal norms.

Dr Paul Edwards of Southern Cross University and colleagues asked 187 rural boys aged 12 to 17 about what makes them angry and likely to be aggressive, as well as about their own experience with violence.

The results of the latest study, published in the , found the role of certain music, movies, and computer games, with violent content, was identified as increasing the risk of aggression.

The boys felt that aggression saturated their lives via the news and various media and they were especially concerned about the negative influence on younger children.

“Anger is often the outward manifestation of deeper mental health issues in young men with strong links to depression, aggression, and suicide,” the researchers write.

“Despite much research on anger and aggression, this study is one of the few to explore the perspective of rural adolescent males and so adds an invaluable missing piece to the puzzle of reducing problem anger and aggression in young men.”

According to the Australian Psychological Society, mental health problems are increasingly being recognised in men of all ages, with the majority diagnosed among adolescents and young adults.

Mental health problems are often masked by other risk behaviours including alcohol and drug abuse, anger and aggression, speeding on roads and drink driving.

“The main group of men who demonstrate poorer health in Australia are those living in remote areas,” , the member magazine for the Australian Psychological Society.

The latest research recorded some of the comments from the boys:

Teasing or perceived ridicule, which they felt was meant as a threat or a challenge, could lead to them becoming aggressive, particularly if they were the target of
racist comments.

Racism

“Someone says something about your culture.”

“Just because you’re black.”

Homophobia

“It isn’t normal.”

“We’ll smash him.”

Family influence

“This morning I just punched a hole through my friggin bedroom door … it helped.”

“My grandad, he bashes people.”

“My next door neighbour is a boxer and my mum is a kick-boxer. She’ll kick your ass.”

Territorialism

“It’s about territory and stuff.”

“Just like the west and like the east side (referring to gangs in Los Angeles), they live in that part and they live in that part and they come over and like start a fight.”

At school

The boys suggested it was okay to be aggressive at school and described how anger might lead to aggression when a teacher unjustly criticises them.

“You get in trouble for something you didn’t do and then you say you didn’t do it and then you get in even more trouble and then they (teacher) yell at ya.”

Peer pressure

“People push you like into fights, like you don’t want to fight like someone … everyone’s telling you to … provoking you.”

Lifeline Australia is available 24 hours a day on 13 11 14 with crisis support and suicide prevention services.

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