Can You Break the Bad Boy Habit?

By

Can You Break the Bad Boy Habit?
Read why some women find "bad boys" irresistable, and what you can do about it if you're one of them

This guest article from Psych Central was written by Sophia Dembling.

“Why do women like bad boys?” is the frustrated refrain of nice guys everywhere.

 

I don’t pretend to have the answer to that question, though I do have my own pet theory: That being “bad” requires self-confidence and that’s what women are attracted to, not the “badness” per se.

Whatever the reason, a study in press for the Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, titled “Effects of popularity and gender on peers’ perceptions of prosocial, antisocial, and jealousy-eliciting behaviors” found that even girls as young as 12 and 13 have a soft spot for bad boys.

The study, done at the University of Oklahoma, presented 190 seventh and ninth graders with photos of hypothetical same- and other-sex peers who were described as either popular, unpopular, or of neutral status. Then the participants were presented a series of vignettes starring the pretend classmate, and asked a series of questions about the person and the behavior.

Among the antisocial behaviors presented in the vignettes was substance abuse, and the study revealed that “boys especially liked their substance-using female peers, while girls especially liked their substance-using male peers.”

Not only that, but girls judged the (hypothetical) substance-abusing girls much more harshly than they did the (hypothetical) substance-abusing boys.

“Girls also rated female peers as more likely to engage in substance use than boys did, and they liked female substance-using peers considerably less than they liked male substance-using peers.”

It’s sad to see that girls judge other girls more harshly than they do boys. Perhaps girls attribute different motives to substance abusing girls than to substance abusing boys. Or maybe they think they understand bad girl behavior better than bad boy behavior and therefore feel qualified to judge it. Or maybe it’s the whole cockamamie notion of “rescuing” a troubled boy, eliciting undying gratitude and love.

Or perhaps, as the paper says, these findings ”suggest that opposite-sex peers who engage in behaviors that bridge the ‘maturity gap’ may be particularly desirable romantic partners, and thus are afforded more consideration by the other sex.”

As we get older, however, the whole “maturity” thing doesn’t hold up. In fact, the behavior of adult substance abusers is more likely to be immature; anyone serious about their drug of choice is likely to require a lot of caretaking. Which is not as fun as it sounds. Nor is it as easy to “rescue” someone as a 12-year-old might imagine.

And yet a lot of girls don’t grow out of their bad-boy phase, and that can lead to an awful lot of drama.

Perhaps any woman with a soft spot for a bad boy should try imagining him as a woman. Would you find the behavior as attractive if he were a she?

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

John M. Grohol

Psychologist

Dr. John Grohol is a mental health expert and founder of Psych Central. He has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues, and the intersection of technology and psychology since 1992.

Location: Newburyport, MA
Credentials: PsyD
Website: PsychCentral
Other Articles/News by John M. Grohol:

There's A Reason All Your Relationships Fail — Sorry, It's You

By

Have you had multiple partners, but the basic dynamic between you and them remains the same; which in short is this—you don't get what you want? Somehow you keep making the same mistake, either choosing the wrong person or looking for the wrong thing from the person you choose. Filling a void What I often see in my private practice are adults ... Read more

How To Love And Support Your Partner After Serving Overseas

By

What people do not see and may not understand is that the homecoming of a veteran is both a treasured event and a complex process. For a couple, in addition to all that it demands in terms of the reality of time, space, roles, money, kids and deployment cycles, homecoming means finding a way to integrate all that has happened to each partner into the ... Read more

Is Marriage A Good Deal Or An Ordeal?

By

There are lots of expectations about what marriage will provide that motivate people to choose it over the single life. Including … Love Companionship Regular sex Meaningful emotional connection Mutual support Financial and emotional security Material comfort A permanent ... Read more

See More

 
Latest Expert Videos
ASK YOURTANGO MORE QUESTIONS
Must-see Videos
SEE MORE VIDEOS
Most Popular