Is the Need to Be Masculine Hurting Your Mental Health?

Could trying to live up to the macho platitudes fuel depression, anxiety, and other kinds of mental illness in boys and men? A new study suggests that the answer can often be yes but a lot depends on which masculine ideals you embrace, according to an article posted on GreaterGood.com.

A team of researchers led by Y. Joel Wong of Indiana University searched for scientific papers that used the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory (CMNI), a widely used scale. The researchers were  interested in fine-grained analysis of the CMNI’s 11 distinct dimensions of masculine norms, including:

* Winning: Do you want to be admired and respected? Are you competitive?
* Emotional control: Can you keep feelings in check?
* Self-reliance: Can you disconnect from others, when necessary?
* Violence: Can you be tough? Can you throw a punch?
* Power over women: Can you handle when a woman is taller, stronger, or smarter than you?
* Playboy: Does your self-esteem rest on success in pursuing sex? Do you actively suppress traits that might make you seem feminine or non-heterosexual?
* Primacy of work: Are you driven to succeed on the job? Do you prioritize financially supporting a family over providing emotional support to its members?
* Disdain for homosexuals: Do you avoid touching other men? Do you feel threatened when other men display feminine traits?

Many  studies have found strong correlations between these norms and mental illness, which may be because they work together to discourage help-seeking.

To find out if some norms are less healthy than others, the researchers searched for specific correlations, theorizing that many of men’s mental health problems might spring more from dysfunctional relationships to other people than from their relationship to themselves. In other words, norms like “winning” and “power over women” might lead to fraught relationships, which may in turn feed unhappiness.

Their findings don’t just point to problems with traditional masculine ideals. They also hint at solutions—and a new brand of masculinity that emphasizes connecting with other people, rather than pushing them away.

This research suggests men should strive to connect with each other, emotionally and even physically, while simultaneously trying to be more comfortable with feminine men and women who have succeeded in creating non-traditional roles for themselves. Given how much women have changed in two generations, it’s not far-fetched to imagine men, as a group, might evolve as well. Perhaps the next generation of fathers and teachers will urge boys to help each other out instead of beating each other in competition.

Read the full article here.

Adam Wahlberg

Adam Wahlberg


Founder of Think Piece Publishing

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