My research analyzes the ways fourth grade boys perform masculinity at school in the presence or absence of certain observed variables. The four variables at play were: structure of the environment, gender of actor within the situation, norms of said situation, and presence of an authority figure. According to the literature and consistent with my own finding was that boys performed masculinity was by establishing authority, and did so through displays of confidence, competitiveness, and bossiness. My results indicated that due to the close proximity of an authority presence in structured environments, in these spaces bossiness and confidence were more pronounced than in unstructured environments--where they were often subsumed by competitiveness. Differences in masculinity performance as it pertained to gender were inconclusive due to the lack of isolated situations of boys interacting with just girls This research grows the existing literature, and is one of few, if any, ethnographies on masculinity performance in elementary school boys since Thorne’s ethnography. Additionally, this research serves to re-analyze Thorne’s theories and ideas under a contemporary lens, blending her findings with those of Messner (2002) to help better understand the way perspectives on masculine identity are formed.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen J. Ellingson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.