Summarizing Gender Role Conflict and Masculinity Ideology Research

After completing my review of gender role conflict research (O’Neil, 2008), I completed a review of the literature on what variables significantly correlate with masculinity ideology, masculine role norms, and conformity masculine norms significantly (O’Neil, 2010, 2011 a, b). In my review, the research questions was: Does empirical evidence exist that masculinity ideology, gender role conflict and stress, hypermasculinity, and reference group identity dependence significantly correlate with men’s psychological and interpersonal problems?

To answer this question empirical studies that used the following 10 measures were comprehensively reviewed: Masculine Role Norms Scale (MRNS; Thompson & Pleck, 1986), Male Role Norms Inventory (MRNI; Levant et al., 1992), Conformity to Masculine Norm Inventory (CMNI; Mahalik et al., 2003), Masculine Gender Role Stress Scale (MGRS; Eisler & Skidmore, 1987), Gender Role Conflict Scale (O’Neil, 2008), Gender Role Conflict Scale for Adolescents (Blazina, Pisecco, & O’Neil, 2005), Adolescent Masculinity Ideology Relationships Scale (Chu, Porche, & Tolman, 2005), Hypermasculinity Inventory (HMI, Mosher & Sirkin, 1984), Auburn Differentiated Masculinity Inventory (ADMI, Burk, Burkhart & Sikorski, 2004), and Reference Group Identity Dependence Scale (RGIDS, Wade & Gelso, 1998).

Table 1 summarizes the studies reviewed for the 10 published masculinity scales. For each study, every dependent variable that significantly correlated with a masculinity subscales is enumerated. Two hundred and forty-nine studies were reviewed. The summary of the masculinity ideology, norms, and conformity scales (MRNS, CMNI, & MRNI) indicated that attitudes about masculine norms have been statistically correlated with a wide variety of psychological and interpersonal problems in 26 studies. Over 58 dependent variables related to men’s problems have been significantly correlated with masculinity ideology, norms, and conformity. A similar pattern was evident with the GRCS and MGRSS studies. The 10 MGRSS studies correlated with 19 dependent variables and the 200 GRCS studies correlated with 87 separate indices of men’s personal and interpersonal problems. The four studies using hypermasculinity scales (HMI & ADMI) suggested that extremes in masculinity ideology were significantly correlated with 25 separate variables. Furthermore, three studies using the RGIDS found relationships between reference group status and eight male problems. Finally, three studies using the GRCS-A and ADMI indicated that masculinity problems and GRC related to 17 negative outcomes for adolescent boys.

The results in Table 1 represent the first summary of empirical research that correlates multiple measures of masculinity ideology, masculine gender role conflict/stress with men’s psychological and interpersonal problems. A careful study of Table 1 reveals some sobering relationships between specific masculinity constructs and dysfunctional living for men and boys. The results of the 249 studies in Table 1 provide a rather convincing case that the operationalized aspects of the masculinity construct that Addis et al. criticize, have significant relationships to men’s and boy’s psychological and interpersonal problems. These findings are important because until recently, empirical research has not confirmed that men’s psychological problems relate to masculinity constructs. The “hazards of being male” is no longer just a title of a once popular paperback but a documented scientific finding in the research.

Table 1. Men’s Psychological and Interpersonal Problem Areas That Significantly Correlated With Ten Measures in the Psychology of Men

1. Thompson & Pleck’s Male Role Norm Scale (MRNS)
Subscales: Status norm, toughness norm, antifemininity norm
Number of studies: 9
Men’s problems significantly correlated with the MRNS: Negative attitudes lesbians; hostile sexism; negative attitude toward women opposition to the ERA; preference for virgin wife, ethnic belonging suspension from school; drinking and use of drugs; being picked up by police; being sexually active; coercive sex, increased sexual risk, loneliness, separation-individuation problems, restricted affectionate behavior between men, fear of appearing feminine, antigay attitudes, overt hostility and aggression, adversarial sexual beliefs, rape myths, psychological violence.

2. Mahalik’s Conformity to Male Role Scale (CMNI)
Subscales: Winning, emotional control, risk taking, violence, power over women, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, primacy of work, disdain for homosexuals, pursuit of status, total conformity
Number of studies: 13
Men’s problems significantly correlated with the CMNI: Positive relations with others, unhealthy alcohol use; neglecting preventive skin care; health screenings; not seeking help with emotional; difficulties, not going to health care appointments; getting into physical fights; difficulty managing anger; taking risks; risky behavior with automobiles and sexual practices substance use; marijuana use; binge drinking, responses to depression, health risks, few health promotion behaviors, sexism, health promotion behaviors, internalized homophobia; masculine body ideal distress, poor sexual functioning, racial identity: pre-encounter phase; lower self esteem; psychological distress, attitudes about help seeking, shocks given during competition.

3. Levant’s Male Role Norms Inventory (MRNI)
Subscales: Avoidance of femininity; fear and hatred of homosexuals; self reliance; aggression; achievement/status; nonrelational attitudes toward sex; restrictive emotionality
Number of studies: 4
Men’s problems significantly correlated with the MRNI: Alexthymia, negative attitudes about racial identity and women’s equality; attitudes toward condoning sexual harassment of women, racial group marginalization, ethnocentrism, negative attitudes toward help seeking, overall and negative forgiveness, subjective religiosity.

4. Eisler’s Masculine Gender Role Stress Scale (MGRSS)
Subscales: Physical inadequacy; emotional inexpressiveness; subordination to women; intellectual inferiority; performance failure
Number of studies: 10
Men’s problems significantly correlated with the MGRSS: Increases in systolic blood pressure; impaired cognitive performance, higher state anger; negative intent attributions; verbal aggression, greater negative intent; greater irritation, anger, jealousy, and aggression; anger; increases in anxiety; poorer health habits; greater systolic blood pressure, lower work satisfaction, negative attributions and negative affect; verbal aggression, alexithymia; social support, overt hostility and aggression, controlling behaviors; fearful attachment.

5. O’Neil’s Gender Role Conflict Scale (GRCS)
Subscales: Success, power and competition; restrictive emotionality; restrictive affectionate behavior between men; conflict between work and family relations
Number of Studies: 203
Men’s problems significantly correlated with the GRCS: Self esteem, anxiety, depression, stress, shame, help seeking attitudes, alexithymia, alcohol and substance use and abuse, hopelessness, coping, psychological strain, traditional gender role attitudes, machismo, psychological well being, homonegatively, self silencing, body image, family problems, family stress, conduct problems, problems with anger, physical strain, health risk taking, problem solving attitudes, anger, suicide, physical health problems, drive for muscularity, interpersonal problems and competence, self disclosure, shyness, attachment, intimacy, friendship, marital satisfaction, family enmeshment/disengagement, family conflict/avoidance, family cohesion, fathering self efficacy, parenting satisfaction, women’s psychological health, women’s depression and anxiety, women’s marital happiness and adjustment, women’s negative affect, couple’s marital adjustment and depressive symptoms, gender role stereotyping, stereotypic beliefs about man’s emotions, attitudes towards women, sex role egalitarianism, racial bias, attitudes towards African Americans, antigay attitudes and beliefs, homophobia, abusive attitudes and behaviors, hostile sexism, hostility towards women, attitudes toward sexual harassment, rape myth attitudes, dating violence, sexual aggression and coercion, men’s entitlement, victim blaming, violence against women and other men. (table continues)

6. Mosher and Sirkin’s Hypermasculinity Inventory (HMI)
Subscales: Violence, danger, and calloused sex
Number of studies: 1
Men’s problems significantly correlated with the HMI: Self reported drug use, aggressive behavior, dangerous driving following alcohol consumptions, delinquent behaviors during high school years.

7. Burk, Burkhart, and Sikorksi’s Auburn Differential Masculinity Inventory (ADMI)
Subscales: Hypermasculinity, sexual identity, dominance and aggression conservative masculinity, devaluation of emotion
Number of studies: 3
Men’s problems significantly correlated with the HMI and ADMI: Hostility toward women, antisocial practices, negative self-esteem, sensation seeking, anxiety, anger, contempt, acceptance of interpersonal violence, beliefs that women are manipulators, hedonism, not loving, social acceptance, dominance, sexual competence, consensual sexual experiences, ignoring partner’s protests to obtain sex, use of low physical force to obtain sex, desired orgasms per week, number of sexual partners, likelihood to use force to obtain sex, likelihood to commit rape, negative sexual satisfaction.

8. Wade and Gelso’s Reference Group Identity Scale (RGIDS)
Subscales: Reference group nondependent, no reference group, reference group dependent
Number of studies: 3
Men’s problems significantly correlated with the RGIDS: Identity diffusion, social anxiety, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, negative attitudes about racial diversity and women’s equality, positive attitudes toward sexual harassment, health related behaviors and personal wellness.

9. Chu, Porche, and Tolman’s Adolescent Masculinity Ideology Relationships Scale (ADMI)
Single scale: Adolescent masculinity ideology in relationships
Number of studies: 1
Boy’s problems significantly correlated with the ADMI: Restrictive emotionality, inhibited affection, exaggerated self reliance, negative attitudes toward women, low self-esteem, acting out, gender role conflict, need for achievement and success, restrictive affectionate behavior between men, status and antifemininity norms, engaging in sexual relations.

10. Blazina, Pisecco, and O’Neil’s Gender Role Conflict Scale for Adolescents (GRCS-A)
Subscales: Restricted affection between men, restrictive emotionality, conflict between work, school, and family; need for success and achievement
Number of studies: 2
Boy’s problems significantly correlated with the GRCS-A: Emotional, family, and anger management problems, conduct problems, family stress, emotional and psychological stress, masculinity ideology, antifemininity norms, sexual relations.

[Adapted with permission from Altmaier, E. M., & Hansen, J. C. (Eds.). (2010). The Oxford Handbook of Counseling Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.]


O’Neil, J.M. (2011). The psychology of men and boys in the year 2010: Theory, research, clinical practice, and future directions. In J. Hansen & B. Altmaier (Eds). Handbook of Counseling Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

O’Neil, J.M. & Crapser, B. (2011). A conceptual model to deliver men’s services in Higher Education Using Gender Role Conflict Theory and Research: A call to action. In J. Laker & T. Davis (Eds.) Masculinities in Higher Education: Theoretical and Practical Considerations, New York: Routeledge Publishers.

O’Neil, J.M. (2010). Is criticism of generic masculinity, essentialism, and positive-healthy-masculinity a problem for the psychology of men? Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 11, 98-106.