Schoolboys become more cynical with age

Boys become increasingly cynical towards school as they progress through the education system, new research has suggested. Published in the Journal of Adolescence, the study revealed these negative attitudes escalate on a dramatic scale as male pupils progress through secondary school.

According to the investigation - which was partly funded by the Academy of Finland - youngsters are often very enthusiastic about their studies when first entering this tier of the system, but this feeling deteriorates as the three to four years progress.

It was demonstrated that as a result of cynicism transforming into negative feelings towards society as a whole, the likelihood that kids might feel marginalised escalates.

Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro of the University of Helsinki noted young males might feel increasingly disconnected, adding: "The school does not offer the boys suitable challenges and so they become bored and begin to turn away from the upper secondary school."

In contrast, Professor Salmela-Aro explained girls are more prone to thinking themselves inadequate when in upper secondary school, which could result in females being at greater risk of depressive symptoms as they get older.

Gaynor Sbuttoni, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "This is a very interesting piece of research. It seems to be suggesting that there is an increase in cynicism in boys as they go through the last four years of school and that during these last four years of school girls feel increasingly inadequate.

"During these last four years the students experience increasing amounts of testing and greater stress. So are we really surprised that boys feel more cynical about school? How many times have we heard students ask angrily what is the point of learning a lot of the material they are faced with. To them it has no relevance and no interest.

"However, the process of learning it and being examined on it causes great stress. Dealing with stress is difficult and perhaps this research is highlighting the possibility that boys and girls deal with stress in different ways. Dr Salmela-Aro states that she has observed a tendency for boys cynical feelings towards school to develop into a negative attitude towards the entire society. 

"Boys may have more of a tendency to externalise their feelings in this type of situation and blame the school, the system and society as a whole, whereas girls seem to be looking at themselves in this situation and feeling inadequate.

"Dr Salmela-Aro states that boys develop a sense of disconnectedness and that school does not offer the boys suitable challenges and so they become bored and begin to turn away from the upper secondary school.

"The phrase that boys are 'too cool for school' should possibly be that school is not cool enough for boys (and girls). I wonder if it might be that girls also find the challenges unsuitable and boring but that they are more prepared to put up with the situation.

"Expanding this research to help us learn more about the reasons for the differences between boys and girls in this situation would be extremely useful.

"All of this most certainly leads us to notice yet again, the short fall in education as a whole. It teaches children and young people a mass of material to learn and remember within a relatively short time, for a deadline that may affect the rest of their lives. For many it does this firstly, in a way that they do not find challenging and interesting and secondly, it does not teach them the skills to deal with the stress that comes with trying to deal with this."