The relationship between family structure and male gender role development
Scott, Ryan Patrick Joseph
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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between Family Structure in the family of origin with the development of later male gender roles. To date, no studies had assessed the relationship between family structure as first identified by Minuchin (1974) and the development of male gender roles. This is despite the wide agreement in the literature on the importance of further understanding the relationship between male gender role development and family dynamics. The present study was an attempt to address this lack of empirical examination of current theories on male development in the family by studying the relationship between the family of origin with male gender role development. Specifically, the variables of family structure first highlighted by Minuchin’s (1974) Structural Family Therapy were examined in relation to dimensions of Male Gender Role Conflict (O’Neil, 1981) and Conformity to Masculine Norms (Mahalik, 2000). This study assessed 1) the relationship between males’ retrospective perceptions of their family structure (disengagement, rigidity, conflict avoidance, and triangulation/ coalition) with Male Gender Role Conflict and Conformity to Masculine Norms, and 2) the relationship between perceptions of the mother/ child cohesion and father/ child cohesion growing up with Male Gender Role Conflict and Conformity to Masculine Norms. Participants (N=135) were male undergraduate students at a large public university in the southeast region of the United States. The current study offered additional insight into how the family of origin may influence male gender role development. Overall, the results indicated that levels of family disengagement and conflict avoidance patterns were among the best family structure predictors of male gender role conformity and male gender role conflict. The analyses also implicated the level of cohesion with mother in the development of conformity to masculine norms and cohesion with both parents in male gender role conflict development. Implications for future research and practice are offered.