Entries in Men (63)


Why Men Don't Teach Elementary School

Courtesy Philip Wiederspan(ALLENTOWN, N.J.) -- When Philip Wiederspan began teaching first-grade at age 25, he was the only male, except for the gym teacher. His former New Jersey college friends would look at him in shock when they learned his profession: "How can you do that? You must have a lot of patience."

"It requires a lot of patience," he said. "They are babies when they come in, just out of kindergarten, and by the end of the year, they are independent and can work on something by themselves for 10 minutes. Then they come back in September and, my God, they're babies, again."

Today, at 51, Wiederspan has devoted more than half his life to the youngest students at Upper Freehold Regional Elementary School in Allentown, N.J.

"Word got out my first year of teaching," he said. "Parents would call the office to come and visit my classroom to see if they wanted their kids in my class. I remember that distinctly … they just wanted to see."

As a man, Wiederspan is a rarity in U.S. elementary-school education. And experts say that as boys continue to lag behind girls academically, schools could use more male teachers.

"I am definitely not a mommy figure," said Wiederspan, who, after 17 years, moved up to third-grade. "Boys are a challenge. I try to draw them out. I use humor a lot and sometimes, when a kid is really shy, it's going to take a while for them to warm up."

"I relate to this age group," he said. "I am a big kid."

For the past 20 years, the numbers of male teachers in elementary and middle school grades have stagnated at about 16 to 18 percent, according to MenTeach, an organization whose mission is to increase the number of males working with young children.

There were no statistics for grades K-3, but in 2011, the most recent year for which there are data, only slightly more than 2 percent of kindergarten and preschool teachers were male.

"The gap and discrepancy between girls' performance and boys' performance is growing ever more marked," said Massachusetts psychologist Michael Thompson, co-author of the groundbreaking 2000 book Raising Cain, which argues that society short changes boys.

"There are lots of explanations for it," he said. "One is the nature of the elementary classroom. It's more feminized and it does turn boys off, perhaps because they are in trouble more or because the teaching style is more geared to girls' brains.

"You go to an elementary school and there isn't a man in sight except the custodian, and the kids love him," Thompson said.

The odd man who teaches is well liked, but often treated like the "school mascot."

"Having male teachers, boys have a model that it's OK to be male and be in the classroom," he said. "School isn't just a female enterprise. That's what the presence of a man says to kids."

Pete Ellenzweig, 58, has spent more than three decades in K-4 classrooms in a suburban school district outside Portland, Ore.

"I have never felt as if I were under any particular type of scrutiny, not even once," he said. "I think a parent asked me in 1990 or '91, 'Isn't that an unusual career choice?' I replied, 'I don't think so. It's been amazing.'"

There are two male kindergarten teachers and five out of 17 in his building who teach in other grades are men. He said his school district began recruiting males "years ago."

While Ellenzweig said he believes men make great teachers, a student's gender "just doesn't enter my world view."

"I do everything possible to treat people equitably," he said. "And that means having the same types of behavior expectations in the classroom and the same long-term belief in the capability of each kid. …I think there are gender differences in terms of maturity, but it doesn't affect my day-to-day work with children."

Teacher Wiederspan admits that his class of 24 students -- mostly 8-year-olds -- is "a handful," especially the boys.

"They have a lot of energy and they don't always know how to properly release it," he said. "Something physical happens. They trip over someone, then it escalates. It was an accident, but then it becomes, 'He did this and he did that.'"

Girls can sit still more easily and are more efficient at processing language. Many female teachers have a "pretty low tolerance" for boys, who are more active and like competition, according to psychologist Thompson.

In the past, girls began to lag behind boys as they entered high school, particularly in science and math. But efforts in the past few decades have paid off. Today, 60 percent of all college graduates are women.

"Most boys are not falling off the cliff, but when we took the shackles off girls, they began to zoom," Thompson said.

Organizations like the National Education Association have called for efforts to support young men interested in teaching, but many are discouraged by the relatively low pay, especially if they are the primary breadwinner.

Stereotypes about male teachers, and sometimes mistrust, persist.

"It's very hard to change the suspicion of men who are going to elementary education when there are so few of them," Thompson said. "Schools ask me to talk to men on their faculty and when I sit with them behind closed doors, they say the moms look at them like potential pedophiles.

"If they are too nurturing or a mother comes in and sees a teacher reading in a chair and the child is leaning against the teacher or cuddling him, they freak out," he said. "Men tell me they only have to look in the mom's face to know what they are thinking."

That has never been the case with Wiederspan, he said, although when he first started teaching, mothers showed an unreasonable curiosity about what kind of a teacher he might be.

"I would have literally four or five parents sitting at a table at a certain point in the year observing me," Wiederspan said. "And it was nerve-wracking as an untenured teacher."

He's now comfortable in his role, still teaching among only a handful of male teachers, seven in all, three of whom are gym teachers.

"I have high expectations and I lay that out in the beginning and reinforce it throughout the year," he said.

"I am definitely strict, but I am fair. ...And there are boundaries."

Just a few weeks ago, for instance, a female substitute teacher had trouble with three students, all boys.

"When I came back, there was a whole note, three incidents, and the kids were sent to the principal's office. I took them aside and told them, 'You know, I am disappointed.' ...They will take advantage."

Married with three children, a 20-year-old daughter and 11-year-old twin boys with autism, Wiederspan sometimes laughs that his classroom is easier than the demands of fatherhood.

After 27 years, he says, "I still like being with the kids. You can joke with them and you don't always have to be so serious. It's like being a dad, but they get to go home."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mobile Apps Help Men Lose More Weight, Study Finds 

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Losing weight is hard for men -- but a new study shows that mobile technology can help.

Researchers from Northwestern University showed that men who used a mobile phone app and had a coach monitoring their intake and exercise lost nearly nine pounds on average over a year, while those who just wrote calories down on paper had no weight loss.

"The advantage of an app is that you can enter what you are eating in real time and get feedback immediately about how many calories you have consumed," says Bonnie Spring, Northwestern's Director of Preventive Medicine.

Spring added that having the behavioral coach helped individuals overcome weight loss challenges by being a "chronic hoverer."

According to the study, offering health classes nearly doubled the effect for those using the app.

"If the people using the app also went to 80 percent of those classes, then they lost 15 pounds and kept it off for a year," Spring says.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Multivitamins Cut Cancer Risk in Men, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's a decision that millions of Americans face every morning: to take, or not to take, that multivitamin.  Now, a new study of almost 15,000 men over 50 suggests popping that daily supplement could cut cancer rates by 8 percent.

The study is good news for some Americans, who spend billions of dollars each year on the assumption that taking a daily multivitamin will help prevent disease.

"Despite the lack of definitive trial data regarding the benefits of multivitamins in the prevention of chronic disease, including cancer, many men and women take them for precisely this reason," said Dr. Michael Gaziano, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  "Our study shows a modest but significant benefit in cancer prevention."

It's unclear whether the results apply to women or men under 50.

Previous large studies, including a 180,000-patient study started in 1992 and the Women's Health Initiative study of 160,000 women published in 2009, found that multivitamins had little to no effect on the risk of cancer.  In fact, a 2010 Swedish study of 35,000 women who reported using multivitamins had an increased risk of breast cancer.  So what changed?

First, the new study randomly assigned men to two groups, one of which took a daily Centrum Silver® while the other took a placebo pill.  Previous multivitamin studies have been observational, meaning that the participants weren't compared with someone taking a placebo.

Second, it followed the men, who were 65 years old on average, over 11 years -- a longer follow-up than previous studies and sufficient time for cancer to develop.

And finally, the trial used a multivitamin, which is designed to fill nutritional gaps in a person's diet.  Other trials have tested a single vitamin such as calcium or vitamin A, E or D in large doses, which is very different from how people normally get the vitamins and minerals they need from food.

"The reduction in total cancer risk in [the study] argues that the broader combination of low-dose vitamins and minerals contained in the [Centrum Silver®] multivitamin, rather than an emphasis on previously tested high-dose vitamins and mineral trials, may be paramount for cancer prevention," said Gaziano.

"Clearly the notion of megadoses of isolated nutrients has been proven wrong again and again," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, who was not involved in the study.  "Maybe the active ingredient in broccoli is broccoli."

So if a multivitamin prevents cancer because it provides a mix of nutrients similar to food, why not just eat more fruits and vegetables?  Diets high in fruits and vegetables have been shown in observational studies to reduce the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases.  But only 1.5 percent of the public gets the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables, according to Katz.

Katz compared the results of this study to a prior study from Europe that showed people who never smoke, have a body mass index or BMI lower than 30, get regular exercise and adhere to a healthy diet, can reduce their risk of chronic disease by almost 80 percent.

"Clearly however, taking a multivitamin is easy; changing dietary patterns is hard," he said.

The Centrum Silver® used in the study was provided by the manufacturer Pfizer, but Pfizer did not fund the study.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texting Study Shows Women Wear Their Emoticons on Their Sleeves

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HOUSTON, Texas) -- The folks over at Rice University, having apparently figured out everything else there is to know about everything, have turned their attention to those sometime grating graphic symbols called emoticons that have become an integral part of text messages.

In their must-read study, “A Longitudinal Study of Emoticon Use in Text Messaging from Smartphones,” Rice researchers have concluded that women are twice as likely than men to use the little facial expressions in texts.

The study was a thorough examination of 124,000 texts sent over six months by men and women. Just to make sure the research wasn’t skewed, the participants received free phones but weren't told what the study was about.

What the researchers learned from the cellphone data culled over half-a-year was that all the participants at some point used emoticons in their text messages but that the expressions popped up in just four percent of all the texts sent.

And while as many as 74 emoticons were used over the course of the experiment, the symbols indicating happy, sad and very happy comprised 70 percent of all the emoticons sent.

Besides women using emoticons by a two-to-one margin over men, they were found to be more emotionally expressive in non-verbal communications. However, men use a greater variety of emoticons than women -- whatever that means.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bad News May Cause More Stress for Women than Men

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When reading the morning paper, women may take bad news to heart more than their male counterparts, a new study found.

The Canadian study of 56 people found women who read negative news stories were more reactive to stressful situations later on.

“If you are reading the paper every morning while drinking your cup of coffee and have a stressful day ahead, it is important to learn stress management techniques to help you through the rest of the day,” said author Marie-France Marin, a neuroscientist at the University of Montreal and lead author of the study, published Thursday in the journal PLoS One.

Marin and colleagues measured salivary levels of the stress hormone cortisol while study subjects were reading the news, and then again later during stressful tasks, such as a mock job interview or a math quiz.

Women who read negative news stories had higher cortisol levels than those who read neutral stories, according to the study.  They were also more likely to remember the negative details.

The finding did not hold true for men.

Dr. Redford Williams, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University in Durham, N.C., said the study findings make sense.

“Women typically are more sensitive to others’ emotions,” he said.  He suggested the stress response has evolved to ensure survival of a woman’s offspring.

But Williams said women -- or men, for that matter -- who worry that the news is affecting their stress levels should ask themselves four simple questions:

  • Is the news important to me?
  • Are my feelings appropriate, and would another person be having these thoughts?
  • Is the situation modifiable and is there anything I can do to improve or change it?
  • Is it worth it to me to get involved in this story?

If the answer is no, Williams recommends letting the negative thought go.  Instead, repeat a positive thought or meditate, he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Castration May Hold Key to Longevity in Men, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(INCHON, South Korea) -- Call it making the best of a potentially bad situation. Eunuchs -- castrated men -- live nearly 20 years longer than other men, a new study has found.

The study of over 80 eunuchs from the Chosun Dynasty, which ruled in Korea from 1392 to 1897, looked at the world's only known record of eunuchs' lives and compared them to genealogical records of other men of similar social rank. The researchers cross-checked their results with other royal records.

They found that the average lifespan of a Korean eunuch was about 70 years, 14 to 19 years higher than non-castrated men of similar social standing.

Three of the 81 eunuchs lived to be over 100 years old. The researchers calculated that the rate of centenarians among this group of eunuchs was at least 130 times higher than the current rate in developed countries.

"Our study supports the idea that male sex hormones decrease the lifespan of men," wrote Kyung-Jin Min, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Inha University in Inchon, South Korea, and lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Current Biology.

This study does not prove that castration directly increases human longevity, said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois in Chicago, who studies longevity but was not involved with the study. "It may not have anything to do with being eunuchs," he said, adding that this study did not adjust for lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and stress.

Previous studies have shown that castration -- which removes the source of male sex hormones -- increases lifespan in animals. But studies in humans haven't been conclusive. One past study found that castrati singers did not live significantly longer than non-castrated singers. Another study has shown that castration increased longevity by 14 years in mentally disabled, institutionalized men. That increase in lifespan is similar to the findings in the Korean eunuch study.

Women reach the age of 110 ten times more often than men, said Dr. L. Stephen Coles, a co-founder of the Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group, who was not involved with the study. In a research group of 67 confirmed centenarians, he said, only three are men.

There may be several reasons for a sex difference in lifespan, experts said.

Females may have an advantage in longevity because they have a back-up X chromosome, Coles said. A women's body is a mixture of cells, half containing an active X chromosome from her mother and the other half from her father, he said. If there is a defect on one X chromosome, half of her cells will be unaffected.

Male sex hormones may have a negative effect on the immune system, wrote study author Min in the paper. "Male sex hormones also predispose men to adverse cardiovascular attacks."

While research seems to link male sex hormones to shorter life spans, experts remind us that quality of life matters more than quantity.

"I would not recommend becoming a eunuch," Coles said, "Or taking drugs to reduce your sex hormones." Reducing testosterone levels in men or women would severely affect one's sex drive, he said.

The findings that the absence of male sex hormones may improve longevity runs counter to a growing trend in the anti-aging industry, Olshansky said.

Some companies claim a healthier longer life can be enhanced by the introduction of growth or sex hormones at levels that existed when you were younger, he said.

 "There's no evidence that introducing hormones at levels that existed when you were younger make you live longer," Olshansky said, "This study suggests that you're better off without them."

Testosterone therapy may be recommended for certain men who lack testosterone, Coles said. A source at the National Institutes of Health said a clinical trial is currently underway to see if testosterone is safe and beneficial for elderly men with low testosterone levels.

What advice do experts have for people who want to live to a ripe old age -- and might not be in the frame of mind to consider castration?

Avoid smoking, Coles said, because we know that nicotine is highly addictive and that tobacco smoke causes cancer.

A healthy diet and exercise are also important for longevity, Olshansky said. While there is no universal prescription for exercise, he recommended, "Avoid being horizontal, be vertical, and keep moving!"

But what also really helps when it comes to living longer, he said, is to "choose long-lived parents."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Chocolate May Help Men Dodge Strokes, Too

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Men who consume moderate amounts of chocolate each week may have a lower risk of stroke, a new study finds.

Published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, the study looked at the diet patterns in more than 37,000 Swedish men between the ages of 39 and 75, asking about their consumption of various foods and drinks, specifically chocolate, and then reviewed their medical records going back 10 years.

The  researchers found the stroke risk was lower in men who’d  consumed chocolate, especially in those who reported consuming it in large amounts.

Men who reported eating the largest amount of chocolate — about one-third of a cup per week — had a 17-percent lower risk of stroke compared with those who did not consume any chocolate, the study found.

“While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind to find that chocolate may be beneficial in reducing stroke in men,” the authors, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, wrote.

When the investigators compared their results to those of previous studies, they found that they reinforced what had been previously suspected about chocolate’s link to lower stroke risk. But the previous studies looked only at the stroke risk in women; none had looked specifically at men.

“This will likely provide a rationale for chocolate lovers around the world to enjoy their treats with less guilt,” says Dr. Gary W. Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center, who was not involved in this new research.

Surprisingly, the new study found that this chocolate effect was not specific to dark chocolate – about 90 percent of the chocolate the men in this study consumed was milk chocolate. Previous studies had suggested that the reduction of stroke risk was linked only to dark chocolate.

Many of chocolate’s benefits have been linked to substances called flavanoids, which appear to protect against cardiovascular disease, an effect researchers have attributed largely to their antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. While present in most forms of chocolate, flavanoids are most prevalent in dark chocolate.  It’s suggested that their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects may improve blood flow, reduce blood pressure and decrease levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Not everyone is buying into the idea that milk chocolate is what people should be reaching for if they’re at risk for stroke.  Dr. Roger A. Brumback, a professor of pathology, psychiatry and neurology at Creighton University Medical Center, who was not involved in the current study, says that all chocolate is not created equal.

“The major advantage of dark chocolate over milk chocolate is that the flavonoids are not diluted by the addition of milk,” Brumback says. “Dark chocolate is about 35 percent cocoa, while milk chocolate can be as low as 10 percent. The patient would have to consume more milk chocolate, which would give a higher dose of sugars with its consequent negative possibilities.”

Other experts were quick to note that chocolate should not form the basis of anyone’s stroke prevention strategy — either for men or women.

“Stroke prevention would be one of the many cardioprotective effects, but I would also note that the effect is modest and pales in comparison to overall diet, regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco,” says Dr. David Katz,  founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Scientists Closer to Birth Control Pill for Men?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Scientists may be one step closer to a birth control pill for men.

A drug dubbed JQ1 swiftly stunted sperm production in male mice, a new study found. And like the female birth control pill, its fertility-fighting effects were completely reversible.

"We have only observed full recovery of fertility in treated males," the researchers from Baylor College of Medicine wrote in their study, published Friday in the journal Cell. "We envision that our discoveries can be completely translated to men, providing a novel and efficacious strategy for a male contraceptive."

JQ1 blocks a protein essential for sperm production in the testes. If the drug is proven to be safe and effective in humans, it could expand the prophylactic pool -- an exciting prospect at a time when over a third of U.S. pregnancies are unintended.

But some doctors say the idea of slashing sperm counts, even temporarily, can be scary for guys.

"Sperm-making is a pretty delicate thing, and people do seem to have a concept of that," Dr. Joseph Alukal, director of male reproductive health at New York University's Langone Medical Center, told ABC News in 2011. "How long did it take for women to get comfortable with the reversibility of the birth control pill? I'm not sure."

Nevertheless, Alukal said he thinks some men would welcome the option of a birth control pill.

"If you look at vasectomy, there are plenty of men in committed relationships who choose to take onus of reproductive planning on themselves," Alukal said. "I think the same sorts of people would choose to look into something like this."

But some women are wary, saying they might not count on the male contraceptive pill alone.

"If I were dating around, though, there's no way I would trust someone that I'd been on just a few dates with [to take the pill]," 24-year-old Amy McCarthy told ABC News in 2011. "I think for most men it just wouldn't be a thought that crossed their mind -- they're worried about getting HIV or gonorrhea, not having a screaming baby."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Stressed Men Prefer Heavier Women, Study Suggests

Hemera/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Gentlemen may prefer blondes, but stressed men prefer heavier women -- at least according to a new study.

In the study, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers at the University of Westminster in London subjected 41 men to a stress-inducing task.  After this task, the researchers asked the men to rate the attractiveness of female bodies ranging from emaciated to obese.

Compared to a control group of 40 men who did not undergo the stress task, the stressed men rated a significantly heavier female body size as the most attractive, and they rated heavier female bodies as more attractive in general.

"Our body size preferences are flexible and can be changed by environment and circumstance," explains Martin Tovee, one of the study's authors.  "We need to understand the factors shaping body preferences."

In this case, it appears that stress alters the classic stereotype that men prefer thin women in general.

Researchers not directly involved with the study said the finding is consistent with what past work has shown regarding the way stress influences our perceptions.

"Stress, both acute and chronic, has profound effect on how we process new information both cognitively and emotionally," explains Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Beth Israel Medical Center.

In fact, earlier research has shown that men also prefer heavier body sizes when resources are unpredictable or unavailable.  Certain evolutionary theories suggest this may be because when times are tough, a thin woman may be ill, have irregular periods, and may be unable to support pregnancy.

"If you live in an environment where food is scarce, being heavier means that you have fat stored up as a buffer and that you must be higher social status to afford the food in the first place," Tovee explains.  "Both of these are attractive qualities in a partner in those circumstances."

The study also found that the stressed men gave higher ratings to a wider range of female figures than did their unstressed counterparts.  This may have implications about how we choose the people to date and marry.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Single Men Listening to Biological Clock and Becoming Fathers

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- Growing numbers of men who have never been married -- gay and straight -- are shattering that old stereotype of the befuddled dad struggling with how to care for a baby.

There are now more than one million single fathers raising children in the U.S., according to 2010 figures from the Williams Institute at UCLA.

The 2010 Census found that in 2.2 million households, fathers raised their children without a mother. That's about one household in 45. And the number of single-father households rose 62 percent in 10 years.

"I always wanted kids and I never imagined my life without having a child," said Steven Harris, the father of 5-year-old Ben. "I figured I'd get married, have a family."

Harris, 57, a New York City lawyer, told ABC News he dated in his 30s and 40s and even got engaged at the age of 50. He later called the wedding off and set his sights on becoming a father.

Because surrogacy contracts were not legal in New York, he went to California, where he used a donor egg from an anonymous woman and hired another woman from Sioux Falls, S.D., to be the surrogate.

He said he met her and her husband twice in California and that he was present for her 10-week sonogram and the 20-week sonogram. The entire process, including forms, lawyers and more, totaled $200,000.

"I got a call at midnight on a Thursday night from the surrogate saying, 'Steve, my water broke. ... You better get out here.' And I jumped on a plane and I was there at noon the next day when he was born, and I took him home on a Sunday," Harris said.

He said there was nothing "not fun" about raising a child. Harris said even changing diapers was fun. And those 3 a.m. feedings? "You know what?" he told ABC News. "It wasn't that bad."

"It's fantastic," Harris said of being a father. "It's enriched my life so much."

Brian Tessier, 46, of Boston, adopted two boys through foster care after researching surrogacy and overseas adoption. He said he heard his "biological clock" ticking after ending a 10-year relationship.

"[I] decided at that point to look inside myself and see what I wanted to do and really what it came down to is that I really wanted to be a dad," he told ABC News. "I think a lot of men do hear that biological clock. ... I just don't think we talk about it as men or admit it."

Tessier started the hotline 411-4-DAD to give adoption and surrogacy advice and information to prospective single fathers. He said the hotline directed men interested in becoming parents to agencies that were welcoming and competent. Tessier said that men he encountered told him some agencies were chilly and questioned their intentions.

"I think that's why a lot of men give up on that dream" of being a father, he said. "They think, 'Oh, I can't,' rather than get the facts -- and that's really what we're trying to do, to make sure that people do have the right information."

Tessier said that the number of callers has tripled since the hotline started.

And when it comes to questions from others -- and even Ben -- about the whereabouts of the mother, Harris in New York says he answers honestly.

"He's been asking for a long time and I started telling him the truth from the beginning," Harris said. "I tell him there are all kinds of families. ... We're a family with you and me with one dad. And for now, that's enough. ... I'd like certain things to be different in my life but they're not. You know, we're very autonomous -- me and Ben -- and I don't feel like there's anything missing in my life."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio