Men who see themselves as playboys or as having
power over women are more likely to have
psychological problems than men who conform less to
traditionally masculine norms, according to research
published by the American Psychological Association.
“In general, individuals who conformed strongly to
masculine norms tended to have poorer mental health
and less favorable attitudes toward seeking
psychological help, although the results differed
depending on specific types of masculine norms,”
said lead author Y. Joel Wong, PhD, of Indiana
Wong and his colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of
78 research samples involving 19,453 participants
that focused on the relationship between mental
health and conformity to 11 norms generally
considered by experts to reflect society’s
expectations of traditional masculinity:
Desire to win.
Need for emotional control.
Playboy (sexual promiscuity).
Primacy of work (importance placed on one’s job).
Power over women.
Disdain for homosexuality.
Pursuit of status.
Specifically, they focused on three broad types of
mental health outcomes:
negative mental health (e.g., depression),
positive mental health (e.g., life satisfaction) and
psychological help seeking (e.g., seeking counseling
While most of the U.S.-based studies focused on
predominantly white males, some focused
predominantly on African-Americans and some on
While overall, conforming to masculine norms was
associated with negative mental health outcomes in
subjects, the researchers found the association to
be most consistent for these three norms:
pursuit of playboy behavior and
power over women.
“The masculine norms of playboy and power over women
are the norms most closely associated with sexist
attitudes,” said Wong.
“The robust association between conformity to these
two norms and negative mental health-related
outcomes underscores the idea that sexism is not
merely a social injustice, but may also have a
detrimental effect on the mental health of those who
embrace such attitudes.”
Even more concerning, said Wong, was that men who
strongly conformed to masculine norms were not only
more likely to have poor mental health but also also
less likely to seek mental health treatment.
There was one dimension for which the researchers
were unable to find any significant effects.
“Primacy of work was not significantly associated
with any of the mental health-related outcomes,”
said Wong. “Perhaps this is a reflection of the
complexity of work and its implications for
An excessive focus on work can be harmful to one’s
health and interpersonal relationships, but work is
also a source of meaning for many individuals.”
Also, conformity to the masculine norm of
risk-taking was significantly associated with both
negative and positive mental health outcomes,
suggesting that risk-taking can have both positive
and negative psychological consequences, said Wong.
For more information
Journal of Counseling Psychology®
Meta-Analyses of the Relationship Between Conformity
Masculine Norms and Mental Health-Related Outcomes
Y. Joel Wong, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho, Shu-Yi Wang, and I.
S. Keino Miller
Online First Publication, November 21, 2016.
The American Psychological Association