Study Finds Sexist Attitudes Linked to Poor Mental Health in Men

Adherence to stereotypically sexist masculine beliefs such as self-reliance, power over women, and playboy behavior are linked to poor mental health outcomes

Peter Simons
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A new study, published online ahead of print in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, analyzed data from almost 20,000 participants and found that negative psychological well-being and poor social functioning were associated with conformity to stereotypically masculine norms. While some masculine beliefs were not associated with negative outcomes, attitudes about self-reliance, power over women and playboy behavior were strongly linked with negative psychological health and lower relationship quality.

Explaining their result, the researchers theorize that “men who conform to the masculine norms of self-reliance and emotional control might have difficulty with interpersonal relationships, whereas conformity to the masculine norms of primacy of work, pursuit of status, and winning might endow men with a sense of identity and purpose derived from work.”

Photo credit: Pixabay
Photo credit: Pixabay

While there are many different ideas about what constitutes ‘masculinity,’ research supports the contention that many shared assumptions about gender norms come through socialization. There are a variety of more-or-less overlapping attitudes and beliefs that make up the construct of masculinity, and any given male-identified person will conform to their own specific set of those beliefs.

The present study used the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory (CMNI), a validated measure that includes questions pertaining to 11 stereotypically masculine attitudes: winning, emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, primacy of work, power over women, disdain for homosexuals, and the pursuit of status. The researchers theorized that some of these traits may comprise toxic masculinity—beliefs about what it means to be a man that lead to negative mental health outcomes and poor social functioning.

The present study was designed to identify which attitudes of masculinity lead to poor psychological health and poor relationships. To do this, the researchers conducted a statistical analysis of 74 studies published between 2003 and 2013, including 19,453 participants. Known as a meta-analysis, this is a common statistical design used to combine data from multiple studies researching the same themes.

Their results showed that overall adherence to masculine norms was related to negative mental health outcomes. However, the traits of self-reliance, power over women, and playboy behavior were strongly linked with negative psychological health and lower relationship quality. Interestingly, risk-taking was actually associated with both positive mental health and negative mental health. The researchers theorized that this could be due to outcomes varying based on whether the risk paid off or not.

The researchers also found that men who conformed to masculine norms were less likely to seek psychological help—possibly due to beliefs about the value of independence, as well as the idea that needing help might be seen as a sign of weakness. This is true of seeking medical care as well; according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women were twice as likely as men to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventative care. Psychological care may follow the same pattern, and lack of seeking treatment could be related to negative mental health outcomes.

The present study did include 7 groups of female participants, but the number was so low that firm conclusions about outcomes for women holding these stereotypically masculine beliefs cannot be drawn. Likewise, the studies considered mostly white participants. Previous research has shown that race, ethnicity, gender, and culture play a role in the mental health outcomes created by adherence to masculine norms, but it is still somewhat unclear how far that extends. Likewise, the researchers theorized that gay men might see different outcomes, but there were too few participants in that group to say for sure.

The researchers suggest that toxic masculinity is leading to poor mental health and poor social functioning for men. They emphasize, however, that there are other ways of defining masculinity that do not rely on sexism, violence, and repression of emotion. For instance, values such as loyalty, family, and strong work ethic are certainly compatible with positive mental health and good interpersonal relationships. This study provides evidence that alternative attitudes such as willingness to express emotion and reliance on others may allow men to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.

 

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Wong, Y. J., Ho, M.-H. R., Wang, S.-Y., & Miller, I. S. K. (2016, November 21). Meta-analyses of the relationship between conformity to masculine norms and mental health-related outcomes. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cou0000176 (Abstract)

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Peter Simons
MIA Research News Team: Peter Simons comes from a background in the humanities where he studied English, philosophy, and art. Now working on his PhD in Counseling Psychology, his recent research has focused on conflicts of interest in the psychopharmaceutical research literature, the use of antipsychotic medications in the treatment of depression, and the general philosophical and sociopolitical implications of psychiatric taxonomy in diagnosis and treatment.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Toxic masculinity can have disastrous outcomes. Years ago, a young female security person I knew was assaulted by some individual who she, being a taekwando adept, put in Intensive Care. When a doctor examined her, he found her newly pregnant by her legitimate boyfriend, which probably increased the charges on the assailant. No doubt, when he went to the Joint (as felons call it), it was reason for his fellow inmates to harass him about being trashed by a pregnant woman, even though she could have easily sent any of them to Intensive Care, themselves.

  2. Consider what happens to little boys in public schools these days. If they act out their natural inclinations as boys, they are immediately taken to task by teachers who want them to behave like little girls. If that doesn’t work, they are drugged with Ritalin until they become compliant little zombies. A boy bites his pop tart into the shape of a pistol and is expelled from school for displaying violent tendencies.

    The Left has done many destructive things to America. It is quite possible that none will prove to be more destructive than its attempt to obliterate gender distinctions.

    Have you watched the Disney Channel lately? I can’t find a single male character on that network that has an ounce of masculinity left. Most of the male characters I’ve seen there (what little I’m able to stomach) are quite effeminate in their behavior. Why do some in our society seem so hell-bent on drumming out anything that resembles traditional male roles?

    The male figures on TV are no longer strong and in charge they are the clowns and the stupid ones like Homer Simpson.

    What’s wrong with having gender roles? What’s wrong with mom being the nurturer and dad the provider? How is it offensive for mom to be the one who cooks the dinner and dad the one who mows the lawn? What’s wrong with letting boys be boys and girls be girls? The short answer: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s actually human nature. But our society has seen fit to allow a very tiny minority tell the rest of us that we are wrong and hateful if we continue to live within those natural gender roles.

    Of course men are suffering, they don’t want us to learn self sufficiency, don’t buy a tool box and learn how to take care of things, no no get a home warranty make payments, be dependent, be a debt slave.

    Message to American men: You are too stupid to do anything you need a “licensed professional”. You are weak… It never stops.

    If you wonder why we are being overrun with bureaucracy, government freely marching into our homes with intrusive draconian policy, look no further. It’s largely down to the feminization of the men, that has been promoted by the NWO for decades now. The gender the politicians, Hollywood, and the media use as the ideal person has changed from someone who is a strong moral male to a submissive female personality. They portray strong men as ignorant brutish bullies..

    Its all by design.

    • Thank you, I just ran out of edit time, I wanted to do a better job of describing whats going on. I have friends in their 20s who live by the police state/debt slave/consumerism model, work work work hand over your money to the DMV/car insurance/rent/car payments and they are miserable but more importantly they don’t see the police state/debt slave/consumerism model for what it is. Could they have created a system any MORE disempowering ?

      I do my best to explain it to them, for example you just bought a used car, your next move is to buy the repair manual and read it. The alternator on my car went out, they wanted $700 to do the repair, I pulled it and got it rebuilt for $128 and stuck it back in. That felt GOOD, the other option the $700 option I would have felt like crap, that sucks my car broke and I had to pay $700 for people “smarter” then me to fix it.

      Don’t even get me started on those TV ads for “Home Advisor” the new racket for extorting your local handyman, just remember American men you are to stupid and helpless, you need a “professional” for that leaky faucet. Put it on your credit card.

      So much for a better description, kind of a rant, but I know the feminization of American men is being done by design to empower a system that wants us all in debt and dependent on it.

      • The_Cat, You are perpetuating a lot of stereotypes and are falling back on slippery slope fallacy to do so.

        A man can be feminite and fix his own car at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive. This is NOT a Left problem by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, I am curious how inclined people who take risks to present themselves outside of social norm expectations are to start their own business and remove themselves from the very “dependent” design you accuse them of falling into.

  3. ‘Study Finds That Post-Modern Marxist Ideologues in Academic Social Sciences Confirm All Their Own Preconceived Notions In Studies Where They Ask And Answer Their Own Questions Ad Nauseum’

    No different from the studies done by psychiatry and paid for by pharmaceutical giants. Identify the preferred outcome and finesse the language and numbers to ‘prove’ your agenda. For pharma it’s to make more money; for Marxist ideologues it’s to overthrow the system. And turn it into what, exactly?

    MIA needs to reprint some chapters by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn so readers can reacquaint themselves with ‘mental health’ and psychiatry under Soviet-Marxist rule.

    Liz Sydney

  4. Before the feminist movement even existed, before men became feminized… both men AND women were actually happier! But now, women want society to see them as totally equal to men at the expense of their own minds. WHY??? Although I’m a woman, I never chose to trade both my happiness and the happiness of men for equality!

    If we want to return to happiness, we must sacrifice equality in gender roles. That doesn’t mean we’re inferior to men, nor superior… Men and women ARE equal as human beings, but that doesn’t mean our ROLES should be equal. We sacrificed our own happiness (the fading “American Dream”) for equality in gender roles… Now that’s crazy!