The nomological network of masculine discrepancy stress
Berke, Danielle Shea
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Research has consistently shown that greater adherence to traditional masculine norms is associated with negative behavioral health outcomes. However, men at the opposite end of the spectrum (i.e., hypomasculine men) may also be at increased risk for engaging in risky or externalizing behavior as a means of alleviating masculine discrepancy stress (i.e., a form of distress arising from perceived failure to conform to socially-prescribed masculine gender role norms). A comprehensive assessment of the nomological network of masculine discrepancy stress is requisite to establishing the validity of this construct and to buttress theory pertinent to the effect of men’s gendered self-evaluation on their engagement in externalizing behavior. As such, two separate studies were undertaken. The first, examined the nomological network of masculine discrepancy stress in a national sample. Four hundred and twenty nine men age 18-50 completed an online survey assessing self-perceptions of gender role discrepancy, discrepancy stress, psychological distress, barriers to help-seeking, and a range of externalizing behaviors in an online survey. The second study undertaken utilized experimental methodology collected over two sessions. Two hundred-twelve undergraduate men participated in the study. During the first session, participants completed an online questionnaire packet including a baseline measure of masculine discrepancy stress and trait measures. During the second experimental session, men completed a “gender knowledge test” and were randomly assigned bogus feedback that was either threatening to masculine identity or nonthreatening. Following a second administration of the masculine discrepancy stress measure, participants responded to a “word completion task” designed to assess emotional activation. Next, men were subjected to a pain tolerance assessment before completing the final measure of discrepancy stress. Collectively, findings from these studies provide compelling support for the construct validity of masculine discrepancy stress and for the theory that engagement in externalizing behavior may serve socially expressive functions intended to realign men with the precarious status of “manhood.” Results are discussed in terms of their implications for informing interventions designed to reduce the negative effects of masculine socialization on men’s lives.