As early as the age of ten, Black boys are viewed as older, guilty until proven innocent by law enforcement (including school resource officers), and encounter a myriad of adverse racialized academic and social experiences (e.g., explicit and implicit biases) (Goff et al., 2014; Noguera, 2008). Dancy (2014) noted how Trayvon Martin, a Black male teen murdered for essentially being seen as threatening and intimidating, was viewed as adult-aged, deviant, troubled, and shiftless. Moreover, Black boys are expected to express minimum “signs” of weakness, vulnerability, and/or sensitivity. The aforementioned social persona may contribute to young Black men and boys not feeling comfortable talking about their feelings and emotional distresses or even seeking professional help, when needed. Generally speaking, many young Black men and boys struggle with emotional vulnerability and choose to avoid or resist any attempts to examine their emotional experiences. Thus, it is important to note that the absence of healthy emotional support channels to process and disclose their feelings may lead to negative life outcomes, such as depression, cardiac arrest, and a shorter lifespan (Ford, 2020). In this article, we discuss the historical and contemporary contexts of adultification of young Black boys; present two vignettes to show examples of how boys are adultified; examine how toxic masculinity may prevent healthy relationships and emotional expressions for Black boys; and offer specific recommendations to educators and families.

Key Take Away Points

Fostering healthy, developmental expressions of Black boys will improve schooling outcomes.

Cultural responsiveness has to be incorporated into the behaviors and skillsets of educators to successfully work with Black boys.

Educators and families must used strengths-based language rather than deficit language when engaging Black boys.

Author Biography

Erik M. Hines, Ph.D., N.C.C., is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems at the Florida State University, where he also serves as the coordinator of the Counselor Education Program and School Counseling Track. Dr. Hines prepares pre-service school counselors, and his research agenda centers focuses on (a) college and career readiness for African American males; (b) parental involvement and its impact on academic achievement for students of color; and (c) improving and increasing postsecondary opportunities for first generation, low-income, and students of color (particularly African American males). Additionally, his research examines career exploration in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) for students of color. Over the years, he has secured major funding from the National Science Foundation to study the college readiness and persistence of African American males to improve their academic and career outcomes. Finally, he is a proud American Counseling Association (ACA) Fellow. Edward C. Fletcher Jr, Ph.D., is an EHE Distinguished Associate Professor of Workforce Development and Education in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. He serves as a Senior Faculty Fellow for the Center on Education and Training for Employment and Co-Editor for the Journal of Career and Technical Education. Dr. Fletcher has more than 60 publications and has obtained over $3.5 million in federal funding. His research agenda focuses on examining the role of career academies on students’ school experiences and postsecondary and labor market transitions – particularly for diverse learners from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Donna Y. Ford, PhD, is a Distinguished Professor of Education and Human Ecology and Kirwan Institute Faculty Affiliate at The Ohio State University's College of Education and Human Ecology. She is in the Educational Studies Dept., Special Education Program. She returned to OSU in Aug. 2019. Professor Ford conducts research primarily in gifted education and multicultural/urban education. Specifically, her work focuses on: (1) the achievement gap; (2) recruiting and retaining culturally different students in gifted education; (3) multicultural curriculum and instruction; (4) culturally competent teacher training and development; (5) African-American identity; and (6) African-American family involvement. She consults with school districts, and educational and legal organizations on such topics as gifted education under-representation and Advanced Placement, multicultural/urban education and counseling, and closing the achievement gap. James L. Moore III, Ph.D., is the vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at The Ohio State University, while currently serving as the first executive director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male. He is also the inaugural EHE Distinguished Professor of Urban Education in the College of Education and Human Ecology. Dr. Moore is internationally-recognized for his work on African American males. He has published over 150 publications; obtained over $28 million in grants, contracts, and gifts; and given over 200 scholarly presentations and lectures throughout the United States and other parts of the world. From 2018 to 2021, Dr. Moore was cited by Education Week as one of the 200 most influential scholars and researchers in the United States, who inform educational policy, practice, and reform. Notably, he was selected as an American Council on Education Fellow, American Counseling Association Fellow, and Big Ten Committee on Institutional Cooperation Academic Leadership Program Fellow.


This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation's Division of Engineering Education and Centers, ITEST and EHR Core Research programs (Award # 1828306, 2001914,1614707, 2016580, & 2000472).