Books by Niobe Way


Deep Secrets: Boys' Friendships and the Crisis of Connection

By Niobe Way | Harvard University Press (2011)

“Boys are emotionally illiterate and don’t want intimate friendships.” In this empirically grounded challenge to our stereotypes about boys and men, Niobe Way reveals the intense intimacy among teenage boys especially during early and middle adolescence. Boys not only share their deepest secrets and feelings with their closest male friends, they claim that without them they would go “wacko.” Yet as boys become men, they become distrustful, lose these friendships, and feel isolated and alone.

Drawing from hundreds of interviews conducted throughout adolescence with black, Latino, white, and Asian American boys, Deep Secrets reveals the ways in which we have been telling ourselves a false story about boys, friendships, and human nature. Boys’ descriptions of their male friendships sound more like “something out of Love Story than Lord of the Flies.” Yet in late adolescence, boys feel they have to “man up” by becoming stoic and independent. Vulnerable emotions and intimate friendships are for girls and gay men. “No homo” becomes their mantra.

These findings are alarming, given what we know about links between friendships and health, and even longevity. Rather than a “boy crisis,” Way argues that boys are experiencing a “crisis of connection” because they live in a culture where human needs and capacities are given a sex (female) and a sexuality (gay), and thus discouraged for those who are neither. Way argues that the solution lies with exposing the inaccuracies of our gender stereotypes and fostering these critical relationships and fundamental human skills.


41KddCHZQaL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

What does it mean to be a teenager in an American city at the close of the twentieth century? How do urban surroundings affect the ways in which teens grow up, and what do their stories tell us about human development? In particular, how do the negative images of themselves on television and in the newspaper affect their perspectives about themselves? Psychologists typically have shown little interest in urban youth, preferring instead to generalize about adolescent development from studies of their middle-class, suburban counterparts. In Everyday Courage Niobe Way, a developmental psychologist, looks beyond the stereotypes to reveal how the personal worldviews of inner-city poor and working-class adolescents develop over time. In the process, she challenges much conventional wisdom about inner-city youth and about adolescents more generally. She introduces us to Malcolm, a sensitive and proud young man full of contradictions. We follow him as he makes the honor roll, becomes a teenage father, and falls into depression as his younger sister is dying of cancer. We meet Eva, an intelligent and confident young women full of questions, who grows increasingly alienated from her mother and comes to rely on her best friends for support. We watch her blossom as a ball player and a poet. We share her triumph when she receives a scholarship to the college of her choice. In these 24 adolescents, Way finds a cross-section of youngsters who want to make positive changes in their lives and communities while struggling with concerns about betrayal, trust, racism, violence, and death. Each adolescent wants most of all to "be somebody" to have her or his voice heard.


Adolescent Boys: Exploring Diverse Cultures of Boyhood

By Niobe Way, Judy Chu, and Michael Kimmel | NYU Press (2004)

A flurry of best-selling works has recently urged us to rescue and protect boys. They have described how boys are failing at school, acting out, or shutting down emotionally. Lost in much of the ensuing public conversation are the boys themselves the texture of their lives and the ways in which they resist stereotypical representations of them. Most of this work on boys is based primarily on middle class, white boys. Yet boys from poor and working class families as well as those from African American, Latino, and Asian American backgrounds need to be understood in their own terms and not just as a contrast to white or middle class boys. Adolescent Boys brings together the most up-to-date empirical research focused on understanding the development of boys from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The authors show how the contexts of boys' lives, such as the schools they attend shape their identities and relationships. The research in this book will help professionals and parents understand the diversity and richness of boys' experiences.


Urban Girls: Resisting Stereotypes, Creating Identities

By Bonnie Leadbeater and Niobe Way | NYU Press (1996)

Sociologists have tried to analyze adolescents as long as the discipline has existed. However, most studies have focused on suburban youth, ignoring a large segment of the population, the urban adolescent.

Urban Girls tries to reverse this trend. The researchers included in this ambitious project realize there is more to adolescence than the suburban experience. The city has unique effects on the people who live there, and they on it. Drawing on experts from across the country, Urban Girls investigates what it is like to be young in an American city. This book also explores the minority experience in America. It is wonderful to see studies of Black and Latina youth that do not automatically label them as future convicts, drug dealers, or with other negative stereotypes. --The American Reporter

Traditional psychology textbooks have ignored the normative development of urban girls and the unique situations they face on a daily basis. Lumped together with their suburban, mostly white and middle class counterparts, their voices are frequently subsumed within the larger study of adolescent development. Urban Girls is the first book to directly focus on the development of urban poor and working class adolescent girls.

Including both quantitative and qualitative essays, and including contributions from psychologists, sociologists, and public health scholars, this volume explores the lives of a diverse group of girls from varying ethnic and class backgrounds. Topics covered include the identity development of Caribbean-American girls, the role of truth telling in the psychological development of African-American girls, relationships between mothers and daughters of different races and ethnicities, friendships, sexuality, health risks, career development, and other subjects of importance to human development. Filling a gap in the literature of human development, Urban Girls is sure to be of use to psychologists, sociologists, and social workers.

Urban Girls Revisited: Building Strengths

By Bonnie Leadbeater and Niobe Way | NYU Press (2007)

Urban Girls, published in 1996, was one of the first volumes to showcase the lives of girls growing up in contexts of urban poverty and sometimes racism and violence. It spoke directly to young women who, often for the first time, were seeing their own stories and those of their friends explained in the materials they were asked to read. The volume has helped to shape the way in which we study girls and understand their development over the past decade.

Urban Girls Revisited explores the diversity of urban adolescent girls' development and the sources of support and resilience that help them to build the foundations of strength that they need as they enter adulthood. Urban girls are frequently marginalized by poverty, ethnic discrimination, and stereotypes suggesting that they have deficits compared to their peers. In fact, urban girls do often“grow up fast,” taking on multiple adult roles and responsibilities in contexts of high levels of adversities. Yet a majority of these girls show remarkable strengths in the face of challenges, and their families and communities provide many assets to support their development. This new volume showcases these strengths.


Growing Up Fast: Transitions to Adulthood Among Inner City Adolescent Mothers

By Bonnie Leadbeater and Niobe Way | Erlbaum Press (2001)

In this book the authors examine in depth the lives of inner-city adolescent mothers, going beyond stereotypes to illuminate the diverse pathways to young adulthood taken by these young women. The different ways they respond to becoming a parent reflect a range of abilities, aspirations, and supports. Their often-creative solutions to living in poverty, the intensity of their desires to make their children's lives better, the height of their youthful ambition when they succeed, and the depth of their pain when they fail, all show a surprising range. The authors argue that adolescent mothers who enter young adulthood with the skills and desires to care for themselves and their children are not the resilient few and present a lengthy analysis of the multidimensional processes that lead to and characterize this resilience. 

In making constructive suggestions for social welfare policies and reforms, this book serves as an ideal model of the important uses of qualitative research for understanding the adolescent experience. More than that, the book stands out among others by this social policy perspective and its focus on encouraging adolescent mothers to reach their potentials. 

This volume aims to attract those who wish to learn more about the adolescent experience without getting lost in the detail of the methods and analyses. To this end, the main body of the text presents general methods and results. Scholarly details of the work are placed in appendices to which the interested reader can refer. A second highlight is the inclusion of impressionistic material, such as quotes from the adolescent mothers who were participants in this research. Such material brings to life the real issues of very real adolescents--their triumphs and struggles, their riches and poverty, their strengths and weaknesses.

Winner of the Best Book Award from the Society of Research on Adolescence (2002).

To see a full list of Dr. Way's publications, see her CV.