Many studies have linked violence in men to low self-esteem, and while self-esteem issues aren’t necessarily a predictor of violence, the roots of violent behaviour are often found in how men see themselves.
According to a 2006 paper published in the South African Crime Quarterly, aggression in men is often linked to an insecure self-image, and even a perceived slight can be seen as a threat to a fragile ego – a threat that sparks aggression.
The paper emphasises that, in a South African context, we can’t ignore the impact of apartheid on black men, as its dehumanising effects continue to shape self-identities even in 2020. Apartheid had a devastating effect on the family: single-parent families (with absent fathers) were – and still are – the norm, particularly in impoverished communities. The paper adds that factors such as internalised racism and status insecurity have compounded a negative sense of self – which can result in aggression, and ultimately violence.
It’s no coincidence that the rate of domestic violence in sub-Saharan Africa is among the highest in the world, as the link between inequality, low status, and violence is well-established. A Kenyan study involving over 500 men (aged 18 to 34) found that those who had low self-esteem were more likely to perpetrate domestic violence. The study’s authors suggest that this is because violence is used by these men as a way to deal with a ‘threatened’ sense of self.
If a man has low self-esteem, it’s likely that he’ll use violence to protect his (unacknowledged) fragility. Which is why it’s so important to teach teen boys how to develop and nurture their confidence – without it, they’ll likely turn to aggressive behaviour and perpetuate gender-based violence.
Mentor a Boy Child is a non-profit organisation (NPO) that aims to instill healthy masculinity in young boys so that they can become well-rounded, confident men. Through a pilot mentorship programme involving middle-adolescent boys from a vulnerable community, the NPO aims to give the cohort the skills they need to take ownership of their development as better men.
The boys, who are aged between 14 and 18, are matched with mentors who serve as positive male role models. The boys also attend workshops where they learn about self-confidence, mental and emotional well-being, stress management, and how to be positive leaders in society.
Mentor a Boy Child was co-founded in 2017, and in 2020 two groups of a total of 140 boys will graduate from the pilot programme. They, in turn, will become role models for the next cohort; as each group pays it forward, vulnerable boys can become the men they are supposed to be: men with a healthy sense of self.
Do you want to help boys grow into healthy, well-rounded, and confident men? Contact Mentor a Boy Child for more information.