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Development of the Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory



This article describes the construction of the Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory (CFNI), which was designed to assess womens conformity to an array of feminine norms found in the dominant culture in the United States. In addition, we present four studies in which the psychometric properties of the CFNI were examined. In Study 1, factor analysis indicated that the CFNI is comprised of eight distinct factors labeled as Nice in Relationships, Thinness, Modesty, Domestic, Care for Children, Romantic Relationship, Sexual Fidelity, and Invest in Appearance. Results from Study 2 indicated that the CFNI has strong internal consistency estimates and differentiates college women from college men. In addition, Study 2 demonstrated that the CFNI Total score and subscale scores relate to Bem Sex Role Inventory and Feminist Identity Development Scale scores in theoretically consistent patterns. Study 3 indicated that the CFNI Total score and several of the subscales significantly and positively relate to scores on the Eating Disorder Inventory. Finally, Study 4 demonstrated that the CFNI Total score and subscale scores have high test-retest estimates for a 2–3 week period. The discussion focuses on potential uses of the CFNI, limitations to the study, and suggestions for future research.
Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 7/8, April 2005 ( C2005)
DOI: 10.1007/s11199-005-3709-7
Development of the Conformity to Feminine
Norms Inventory
James R. Mahalik,1,3Elisabeth B. Morray,1Aim´
ee Coonerty-Femiano,1
Larry H. Ludlow,1Suzanne M. Slattery,1and Andrew Smiler2
This article describes the construction of the Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory
(CFNI), which was designed to assess women’s conformity to an array of feminine norms
found in the dominant culture in the United States. In addition, we present four studies in
which the psychometric properties of the CFNI were examined. In Study 1, factor analysis in-
dicated that the CFNI is comprised of eight distinct factors labeled as Nice in Relationships,
Thinness, Modesty, Domestic, Care for Children, Romantic Relationship, Sexual Fidelity,
and Invest in Appearance. Results from Study 2 indicated that the CFNI has strong internal
consistency estimates and differentiates college women from college men. In addition, Study
2 demonstrated that the CFNI Total score and subscale scores relate to Bem Sex Role In-
ventory and Feminist Identity Development Scale scores in theoretically consistent patterns.
Study 3 indicated that the CFNI Total score and several of the subscales significantly and
positively relate to scores on the Eating Disorder Inventory. Finally, Study 4 demonstrated
that the CFNI Total score and subscale scores have high test-retest estimates for a 2–3 week
period. The discussion focuses on potential uses of the CFNI, limitations to the study, and
suggestions for future research.
KEY WORDS: femininity; gender roles; women; feminine norms.
Gender role norms share the characteristics of
social norms, which are described as “rules and stan-
dards that are understood by members of a group,
that guide and/or constrain social behavior without
the force of laws” (Cialdini & Trost, 1999, p. 152).
For example, social agents such as parents, teach-
ers, peers, and the media teach women and men the
rules and standards of femininity and masculinity,
respectively (Bem, 1981a; Lytton & Romney, 1991;
Meth, 1990). Research confirms that this learning oc-
curs very early in life, as evidenced by findings that
by age 5 children have already developed clearly de-
fined notions of what constitutes appropriate behav-
ior for men and women (see Lytton & Romney, 1991,
1Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
2University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire.
3To whom correspondence should be addressed at Campion Hall
312, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 02467; e-mail:
for a review). Gender role norms also provide guid-
ance for women and men about how they are sup-
posed to act, think, and feel, as well as constrain
women and men from certain behaviors that are “off
limits” (Gilbert & Scher, 1999). Like other social
norms, gender role norms are typically maintained by
the reinforcement or punishment of social responses
(Locksley & Colten, 1979).
We also know that gender role norms are impor-
tant in the lives of women and men in that they foster
identity development (e.g., Bem, 1981a; Chodorow,
1978; Kagan, 1964; Kohlberg, 1966), can contribute
to gender role strain (Eisler, 1995; Pleck, 1981, 1995),
and are viewed by many as important to integrate
into the process of counseling and psychotherapy
(Brown, 1986; Gilbert & Scher, 1999; Brooks &
Good, 2001). As such, mental health practitioners in-
creasingly view gender roles as critical to their theo-
retical, empirical, and clinical work.
417 0360-0025/05/0400-0417/0 C
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.
418 Mahalik, Morray, Coonerty-Femiano, Ludlow, Slattery, and Smiler
We view the current state of femininity mea-
sures as inadequate to address these purposes be-
cause, although a large number of normative mes-
sages have been identified by scholars as associated
with femininity (e.g., be nice, focus on relationships,
be attractive, be thin, nurture others, be silent, de-
fer to men, and be domestic, just to name a few; see
Crawford & Unger, 2000; Gilbert & Scher, 1999),
most current measures examine femininity only as
a global construct. For example, the most widely
used measure of gender roles, the Bem Sex Role
Inventory (Bem, 1981b), assesses femininity as a sin-
gle score made up of responses to stereotypical and
socially desirable feminine characteristics, which re-
sults in a global indicator of the extent to which the
inventory taker is “feminine.”
Some have criticized this measure because they
view it as assessing instrumental and expressive
personality traits rather than gender roles per se, and
concluded that it does not actually measure feminin-
ity or masculinity (Betz, 1995; Spence & Helmreich,
1980). Our central criticism of the Bem Sex Role
Inventory is that it, and other measures that assess
femininity in a global way (e.g., MMPI-2 Feminine
Gender Role Scale), are unable to differentiate
among the many distinct cultural injunctions that
define the social construction of femininity in U.S.
society today.
We believe that Tolman and Porche’s (2000)
Adolescent Femininity Ideology Scale is a step in the
right direction as it focuses on the identification of
specific feminine injunctions that adolescent girls ex-
perience. However, we see that measure as limited
in that it only identifies two feminine ideologies (i.e.,
Inauthentic Self in Relationship and Objectified Re-
lationship with Body) and was developed for use by
girls and adolescents, not adult women.
We make this criticism about global measures
of femininity because we take a normative perspec-
tive that views gender roles as comprised of a large
number of culturally based ideologies that script gen-
der relations, attitudes, and beliefs (see Thompson
& Pleck, 1995). From this perspective, women in the
U.S. are understood as experiencing many different
sociocultural injunctions that define traditional fem-
inine roles (to nurture children, to be physically at-
tractive, to be submissive, and so on). Any inventory
that purports to assess femininity should also assess
the salience of the different feminine norms for in-
dividual women. Such a measure would be able to
incorporate the fact that one woman may construct
the most salient features of her femininity as car-
ing for children and being domestic, whereas another
woman may construct the most salient features of
her femininity as being thin and physically attractive.
This critical variability gets lost in any global index
of femininity. Femininity inventories must address
this variability in order for researchers both to under-
stand the effects that specific feminine norms have on
individual women and to explore the contextual in-
fluences that give rise to each woman’s constructions
of femininity.
The purpose of this study was to develop a psy-
chometrically sound measure that allows researchers
and clinicians to assess women’s degree of confor-
mity to an array of feminine norms in the dom-
inant culture in the U.S. (i.e., White, middle and
upper-class, heterosexual). Conformity to feminine
norms is defined as adhering to societal rules and
standards about how to be feminine and is demon-
strated in the individual woman’s behaviors, feelings,
and thoughts. For example, conformity would be re-
flected in actions consistent with the feminine norm,
positive feelings (e.g., pride) related to conformity,
and negative feelings (e.g., shame) related to noncon-
formity, and having beliefs that emphasize the im-
portance of the norm. Conversely, nonconformity to
feminine norms is defined as not adhering to societal
expectations for what constitutes femininity.
Feminine norms from the dominant culture in
the U.S. were chosen because feminine ideologies
from the dominant European American and middle-
class culture in the U.S. are thought to be the most
pervasive and powerful in U.S. society (Brown, 1998;
Mahalik et al., 2003). We believe that the expec-
tations of femininity as constructed by European
American, middle and upper class heterosexuals in
the U.S. should affect members of that group, as well
as every other woman in U.S. society who is held
up to those standards and who experiences accep-
tance or rejection from the majority culture, in part,
based on adherence to the powerful group’s feminin-
ity norms.
In this article, a factor analysis and three other
studies of the reliability and validity of the Confor-
mity to Feminine Norms Inventory (CFNI) are pre-
sented. Specifically, in Study 1, the factor structure
of the proposed inventory was examined. In Study 2,
the internal consistency estimates of the CFNI were
examined, and data from both women and men were
used to examine the discriminative validity. In ad-
dition, we were interested in testing the convergent
and concurrent validity of the measure. To do so,
we examined the CFNI in relation to femininity,
Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory 419
masculinity, and feminist identity (Study 2), as well
as its relatedness to eating disorder and body image
issues (Study 3). In Study 4, we examined additional
evidence for the CFNI’s reliability by analyzing the
stability of CFNI scores over a 2–3 week time period.
Construction of the Conformity to Femininity
Norms Inventory (CFNI)
The first step in constructing the measure was to
identify feminine norms in the dominant culture in
the U.S. This consisted of several steps; we started
by reviewing the literature on traditional feminine
norms in the U.S. (e.g., Carpenter, 2002; Crawford &
Unger, 2000; Deaux & Lewis, 1984; Deutsch &
Saxon, 1998; Eagly & Steffen, 1984; Gilbert &
Scher, 1999; Gillespie, 2003; Gillespie & Eisler, 1992;
Gilligan, 1982; Hurd, 1999; Jordon, 1992; Matschiner
& Murnen, 1999; Morawski, 1985; Rudman & Glick,
2001; Spence & Helmreich, 1978).
Next, 32 women participated in five focus groups
that consisted of 4–9 members each. The women
averaged 32.53 years of age (SD =10.09) and were
predominantly European American (30 European
American, 1 Hispanic/Latina, and 1 biracial). Most
women reported that they were single (19 single,
4 same sex partnership, 4 married, 3 divorced,
and 2 living together with cross or other sex part-
ner) and heterosexual (22 heterosexual, 6 lesbian,
4 bisexual). They were recruited from a college
campus in the northeast and through contacts of
the researchers. These women met with one of two
female researchers to identify feminine norms. One
of the focus groups was comprised of undergraduate
women, two of the groups were comprised of masters
students in a counseling psychology program, and
two of the groups were comprised of adult women
in the community. They met on average for 90 min
and were asked to “Reflect on your experiences as
women and identify messages that you hear being
given to women in the United States about how
women are supposed to act, think, and feel, as well
as what benefits and costs women experience when
they either endorse or reject these messages.”
Following the group interviews, two of the au-
thors listened to the tapes of the focus groups and
recorded the messages that the women in the group
identified (e.g., women are expected to establish and
maintain relationships, women should stay at home
and run the household, women should try to look
attractive). This list was added to the list identified
from the literature review about traditional feminine
norms, and the result was more than 100 separate
messages identified through the literature review and
focus groups. Next, because many of the messages
identified seemed to share similarities, two of the re-
searchers placed these statements (e.g., “women are
expected to establish and maintain relationships”)
on 3 ×5 cards and sorted them into clusters. Af-
ter grouping the messages into 13 large clusters, the
two researchers read the cards in each cluster, and
then each cluster was labeled. This resulted in the
following feminine norms being identified: “Self as
Mother,” “Be Relational-Connected,” “Be Silent,”
“Be Dependent,” “Be Married,” “Look Young,”
“Thinness,” “Be Physically Attractive-Ornamental,”
“Rely on Men,” “Be Pleasant,” “Defer to Men,” “Be
Virginal,” and “Be Sexy.” Because several items
were not easily clustered (e.g., “women are expected
to be blonde and blue-eyed”) or were so global as to
fit under several more specific clusters (e.g., “women
are expected to be heterosexual” underlies the im-
peratives to be married, rely on men, be virginal,
be sexy), we eliminated these types of items from
further consideration.
Finally, two focus groups (ns=6 and 7) that con-
sisted of both women and men who were masters and
doctoral students in counseling psychology met with
the senior author. These groups met every week for
90 min over an 8-month period to (a) discuss exam-
ples for the norms identified, (b) refine the categories
of the norms, and (c) construct items to assess the
continuum of conformity to the norm.
Through discussion of the 13 categories, and
through attempts to write items for each of the
norms, the categories were further refined into 12
feminine norms that were incorporated into the
survey: Relational, Sweet and Nice, Thinness, Put
Others First, Look Young, Sexy, Modesty, Domestic,
Caring for Children, Romantic Relationship, Sexual
Fidelity, and Invest in Appearance. When we con-
structed the items, our goal was to reflect the full con-
tinuum of conformity that each feminine norm could
have, ranging from extreme conformity, to moder-
ate conformity, to moderate nonconformity, and fi-
nally to extreme nonconformity. For example, for the
norm of Relational, the item “It would be awful if I
ever lost touch with someone in my life” was writ-
ten as an item that reflects extreme conformity to the
Relational norm. “I feel good about myself when oth-
ers know that I care” reflects moderate conformity to
the Relational norm. “I don’t feel guilty if I lose con-
tact with a friend” reflects moderate nonconformity
420 Mahalik, Morray, Coonerty-Femiano, Ludlow, Slattery, and Smiler
to the Relational norm, and “I would feel burdened
if I had to maintain relationships with others” reflects
extreme nonconformity to the Relational norm.
The focus groups wrote items to incorporate af-
fective (i.e., feelings about conforming or not con-
forming to that norm), behavioral (i.e., actions that
reflect either conformity or nonconformity to that
norm), and cognitive aspects (i.e., self-talk or beliefs
about the importance of conformity on nonconfor-
mity to that norm) for each of the four degrees of
conformity. Following this format, the focus groups
constructed 12 items for each of the identified norms
(i.e., one affective, one behavioral, and one cognitive
item for each of the four of conformity statuses). In
this way, 144 initial items were constructed such that
all items assessed either an affective, behavioral, or
cognitive dimension for each of the four conformity
statuses for all 12 femininity norms. For example, the
item “I have a long, methodical daily beauty rou-
tine” was constructed to assess extreme conformity
behaviors that reflect the feminine norm of Invest in
The measure was then piloted at four different
times with small groups of college-aged female and
male undergraduate participants (ns ranged from 20
to 30) both to solicit their reactions to the items
and to assess the subscales’ internal consistency es-
timates. Using these pilot data, the focus groups dis-
cussed both the reactions from participants and the
results from the internal consistency analyses. We
also examined this data to determine if extreme and
moderate items performed as we expected. Because
agreeing with extreme conformity and extreme non-
conformity items should occur less frequently on av-
erage, mean scores from the pilot participants were
examined to determine if extreme items were be-
ing endorsed at lower rates than moderate items.
When moderate items and extreme items had sim-
ilar scores, they were both edited to reflect either
greater rigidity (i.e., extreme conformity or noncon-
formity) or greater flexibility (i.e., moderate confor-
mity or nonconformity). Based on the input and re-
sponses to the items from the pilot groups, we revised
items to improve the readability of items, the inter-
nal consistency estimates of the 12 subscales, and the
validity of the extreme and moderate items.
Through this process, the Conformity to Femi-
nine Norms Inventory was developed. Respondents
to the CFNI indicate how much they agreed with the
initial 144 items using a 4-point scale where SD =
Strongly Disagree,D=Disagree,A=Agree, and
SA =Strongly Agree. This 4-point scaling was
adopted to be consistent with the structure of the
theoretical continuum of conformity that Mahalik
et al. (2003) posited in which conformity to a specific
gender role norm could range across the four con-
formity statuses (i.e., extreme conformity, moderate
conformity, moderate nonconformity, and extreme
To identify the factor structure of the CFNI, and
inform us as to how the 144-item inventory might be
revised, a series of factor analyses were performed on
the full 144 ×144 item correlation matrix. Analyses
were performed with the SPSS FACTOR procedure
(SPSS, 1999).
Participants and Procedure
Seven hundred and thirty-three women par-
ticipated in the study. They averaged 19.72 years
of age (SD =2.69), and most of them were Euro-
pean American (592 European American, 21 African
American, 59 Asian or Asian American, 34 His-
panic/Latina, 2 Native American, 16 biracial, and 9
described themselves as “Other”). Most women re-
ported that they were single (667 single, 7 married, 1
divorced, 1 in committed same-sex relationship) and
heterosexual (714 heterosexual, 6 lesbian, and 13 bi-
sexual). These women were recruited from college
campuses in the northeast and through both class-
room recruitment and psychology human subjects
pools to complete the CFNI and other instruments
described in Studies 2 and 3.
Prior to conducting the factor analyses, three
tests were performed to ensure that the correlation
matrix had variation suitable for factoring. First,
we verified that the determinant was nonzero,
that is, that no perfect linear dependencies existed
among the items (Green, 1976). Second, the Kaiser–
Meyer–Olkin measure of sampling adequacy was .86,
described by Kaiser (1974) as “meritorious,” which
supports the strength of the overall factorial determi-
nation. Third, Bartlett’s test of sphericity (Bartlett,
Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory 421
1950) was statistically significant (p<.001), which
indicates that the population correlation matrix is
not an identity matrix.
A principal axis extraction technique was em-
ployed because after each factor was extracted this
technique accounts for the greatest variance that re-
mains in the residual correlation matrix. Oblique ro-
tations (Oblimin) were performed because of the
presumed correlated nature of the factors, and item
factor loadings below .3 were not considered. The cri-
teria for deciding on the final factor solution included
the magnitude of the eigenvalues, the percent of vari-
ance accounted for by each factor, the overall percent
of variance accounted for, the number of items that
loaded highly on each factor, and the interpretability
of the factors after the items that loaded most highly
on that factor were examined.
An exploratory factor approach was used
to identify the structure of the CFNI. The initial
criterion of a minimum eigenvalue greater than
1.00 produced 34 factors, which clearly was not a
parsimonious factor solution. Because the inventory
was developed to assess 12 distinct femininity norms,
a series of step-down factor analyses were conducted
beginning with 12 factors. Oblique rotations were
performed using the Oblimin criterion in SPSS,
and each of the solutions were examined for inter-
pretability. Following this procedure, a 10-factor
solution appeared to be the strongest in terms of
clear interpretability of the 144 items.
At this point, however, we thought that the 10-
factor solution with 144 items was still not satisfac-
tory, as a number of items did not contribute to these
10 factors. For example, the items that comprised the
Look Young scale did not load exclusively on any
factor and had extremely low communality values
in the range of .0–.2. Thus, to remove error associ-
ated with these items and reduce the length of the
CFNI, the Look Young items were removed, and fac-
tor analyses were re-run. Subsequent to these anal-
yses, Put Others First and Sexy items were also re-
moved, as they were dispersed across several scales
and did not define a unique structure.
Ultimately, the final solution consisted of 118
items that defined eight subscales that accounted for
39.51% of the variance. It is noteworthy that a similar
8-factor solution with the 144 items only accounted
for 34.6% of the variance. Thus, our removal of the
36 items from the factor analysis resulted in less
redundancy and error variance in our solution.
The results of this final 8-factor, principal axis,
oblique rotated solution are reported in Table I. The
table contains the factor loadings, communality load-
ings, eigenvalues, and percent of variance statistics.
We next examined each of the 118 items to de-
termine on which of the eight factors each item signif-
icantly and most strongly loaded, which items had the
highest loadings on each factor, and whether those
high loading items on each factor were identifiable as
representing a single construct (see Table I). Items
were retained for the subscales only if they loaded
at |.4|or higher on one factor and did not cross-load
any higher than |.3|on any other factor. Use of these
retention criteria resulted in 84 items being retained,
with 7 of the 8 factors comprised of items exclusively
from only one of the original rationally derived sub-
scales. For example, all items that met the retention
criteria for Factor 2 were developed initially to re-
flect the norm of being thin. Therefore, this factor
was labeled Thinness. Using this rationale, Factors 2
through 8 were labeled as Thinness, Modesty, Do-
mestic, Care for Children, Romantic Relationship,
Sexual Fidelity, and Invest in Appearance. Factor
1 was composed of items initially intended to mea-
sure two feminine norms (i.e., investing in relation-
ships and being sweet and nice). Thus, in examining
the items that comprised Factor 1, we concluded that
Factor 1 should be labeled as Nice in Relationships.
Next, we examined the magnitude of the factor
correlations to determine the amount of overlap be-
tween factors. Results indicated that only 2 of the
28 pairs of correlations among the eight factors were
equal to, or larger than |.3|[i.e., a correlation of .38
between Factor 1 (Nice in Relationships) and Fac-
tor 5 (Care for Children), and a correlation of .30
between Factor 2 (Thinness) and Factor 8 (Invest
in Appearance)]. However, apart from these two re-
lationships, the low factor correlations suggest that
the factors identified from this sample were relatively
distinct from each other.
Results from the factor analysis supported our
view that the femininity norms we identified and
quantified through the measure development pro-
cess were distinct from each other. Our results sug-
gest that the CFNI is an 84-item inventory with
an 8-factor structure whose factors are best labeled
as Nice in Relationships, Thinness, Modesty, Do-
mestic, Care for Children, Romantic Relationship,
Sexual Fidelity, and Invest in Appearance. The re-
tained items in each dimension reflect behaviors,
422 Mahalik, Morray, Coonerty-Femiano, Ludlow, Slattery, and Smiler
Table I. Principal Axis Oblimin Rotated Factor Matrix, Communality, Eigenvalues, and Percentage of Total Variance for
the Eight Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory Factors
123 45678h2
relate7 .53 .30
relate10 .53 .34
relate2 .51 .35
sweet11 .48 .31
relate5 .49 .30
relate3 .48 .22
sweet3 .47 .27
sweet8 .47 .27
relate8 .45 .29
relate12 .44 .24
sweet5 .44 .31
sweet10 .43 .30
sweet1 .43 .29
relate6 .42 .28
relate4 .42 .29
relate11 .41 .19
sweet9 .41 .25
sweet12 .41 .19
relate1 .39 .18
sweet6 .37 .22
sweet4 .35 .23
sweet7 .32 .13
sweet2 .17
modest6 .09
relate9 .09
thin2 .83 .69
thin4 .77 .57
thin3 .77 .59
thin1 .72 .60
thin7 .66 .41
thin11 .65 .43
thin8 .64 .43
thin5 .63 .46
thin10 .63 .46
thin9 .53 .29
thin6 .52 .43
thin12 .30 .18
modest7 .70 .52
modest1 .68 .47
modest11 .60 .39
modest8 .59 .36
modest2 .56 .33
modest5 .53 .33
modest4 .51 .28
modest10 .47 .28
modest12 .44 .29
others1 .34 .25
modest9 .33 .15
modest3 .18
dom5 .78 .62
dom10 .71 .55
dom6 .69 .50
dom7 .67 .45
dom11 .58 .36
dom4 .57 .40
dom12 .56 .41
dom2 .42 .21
Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory 423
Table I. Continued
dom3 .39 .26
dom1 .37 .19
dom9 .32 .14
dom8 .06
child4 .86 .73
child9 .81 .61
child3 .78 .60
child12 .78 .63
child10 .74 .54
child7 .73 .53
child11 .66 .49
child1 .66 .48
child2 .66 .42
child5 .65 .45
child8 .64 .42
child6 .60 .41
roman3 .62 .44
roman6 .60 .42
roman5 .52 .36
roman9 .48 .25
roman7 .45 .24
roman11 .45 .26
roman1 .43 .26
roman2 .43 .24
roman4 .42 .29
roman10 .37 .22
roman12 .10
roman8 .12
fidel10 .84 .68
fidel5 .82 .65
fidel4 .73 .52
fidel2 .63 .41
fidel11 .63 .40
fidel12 .62 .37
fidel1 .59 .38
fidel6 .51 .33
fidel8 .44 .24
fidel7 .44 .25
fidel9 .39 .25
appear9 .15
fidel3 .11
appear5 .76 .59
appear11 .75 .57
appear10 .63 .46
appear8 .60 .38
appear2 .58 .37
appear7 .55 .34
appear6 .40 .37
appear12 .36 .23
appear1 .34 .39
appear4 .33 .30
appear3 .34
Eigenvalue 10.64 8.82 5.43 4.93 3.90 3.30 3.11 2.81
% variance 9.76 8.10 4.99 4.52 3.58 3.02 2.85 2.58
Note.N=733. h2=communality of each item. relate =Relational; sweet =Sweet and Nice; thin =Thinness;
modest =Modest; dom =Be Domestic; child =Caring for Children; roman =Romantic Relationship; fidel =
Sexual Fidelity; appear =Invest in Appearance. Bolded item values indicate that these items were retained to
comprise the subscale for that factor in all subsequent analyses.
424 Mahalik, Morray, Coonerty-Femiano, Ludlow, Slattery, and Smiler
Table II. Definitions and Sample Items for Each of the Eight Subscales of the Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory
Subscale Definition of feminine norm Sample items
Nice in relationships Develop friendly and supportive
relationships with others
It is important to let people know they are special
I would be ashamed if someone thought I was mean
I don’t go out of my way to keep in touch with friends
Thinness Pursue a thin body ideal I am always trying to lose weight
I would be happier if I was thin
I’d look better if I put on a few pounds (reversed)
Modesty Refrain from calling attention to one’s
talents or abilities
I always downplay my achievements
I feel uncomfortable being singled out for praise
There is nothing wrong with bragging (reversed)
Domestic Maintain the home I do all of the cleaning, cooking, and decorating where
I live
I enjoy spending time making my living space look nice
It is important to keep your living space clean
Care for children Take care and be with children I would baby-sit for fun
Most people enjoy children more than I do (reversed)
Taking care of children is extremely fulfilling
Romantic relationship Invest self in romantic relationship Whether I’m in one or not, romantic relationships are
often on my mind
I pity people who are single
I can be happy without being in a romantic relationship
Sexual fidelity Keep sexual intimacy contained within
one committed relationship
I would only have sex if I was in a committed
relationship like marriage
I would feel guilty if I had a one-night stand
There is no greater insult than to be called a “slut”
Invest in appearance Commit resources to maintaining and
improving physical appearance
I never wear make-up (reversed)
I’d feel superficial if I wore make-up (reversed)
It is important to look physically attractive in public
feelings, and thoughts consistent with the norms that
women (1) develop friendly and supportive relation-
ships with others (Nice in Relationships), (2) pursue
a thin body ideal (Thinness), (3) refrain from call-
ing attention to one’s talents or abilities (Modesty),
(4) maintain the home (Domestic), (5) take care and
be with children (Care for Children), (6) invest self
in romantic relationship (Romantic Relationship),
(7) keep sexual intimacy contained within one com-
mitted relationship (Sexual Fidelity), and (8) commit
resources to maintaining and improving physical ap-
pearance (Invest in Appearance). See Table II for
sample items for each subscale.
That eight factors were identified also lends sup-
port for the idea that there are multiple feminine
norms to which women respond and that these norms
are distinguishable from each other. Related to this
point, we underscore two issues concerning the fem-
inine norms identified in the study. First, we recog-
nize that the final factor structure and the subscales
retained through the process were likely affected by
the characteristics of the sample. For example, it may
be that the Look Young items would have loaded
as a distinct factor if the sample were not comprised
mostly of college undergraduates. Like all measure
development efforts that employ factor analysis, we
recognize that our factor structure solution may be
sample-dependent, and we look to future research
to cross-validate the structure we identified in this
Second, the results of the study should in no way
suggest that there are only eight feminine norms—
no more and no less—in the dominant culture in the
United States. There are obviously other feminine
norms in the dominant culture in the U.S. that our
measure development process did not capture. We
also recognize that there are other feminine norms
from other cultural groups in the U.S., as well as
other feminine norms from other cultural groups
around the world, that we did not identify. How-
ever, we believe that having a measurement tool that
allows examination of a larger number of feminine
Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory 425
norms than the current femininity indices has bene-
fits to research in psychology, and other disciplines,
over previous measures. Such a tool allows us to
examine the great variability between women, and
within individual women in different contexts or lon-
gitudinally, in how women enact femininity. Such a
measure may also allow a better examination of the
resultant benefits and costs of both conformity and
nonconformity to feminine norms for the individual
and others.
The purposes of this study were to examine re-
liability and validity indicators for the CFNI Total
score and the eight Femininity Norms. Specifically,
our purposes were (1) to examine the internal con-
sistency estimates for the CFNI Total score and eight
Femininity Norms subscales, (2) to examine the in-
tercorrelations among the eight Femininity Norms
subscales and item-total correlations of the Femi-
ninity Norms with the Total score, (3) to determine
whether women score higher on the CFNI scores
than men do, and (4) to determine if CFNI scores
relate in predicted ways to constructs such as global
femininity, global masculinity, and feminist identity
The rationale for the third purpose was based
on the assumption that women would be more likely
to conform to feminine norms than men would. The
rationale for the last purpose was based on the as-
sumption that scales on an inventory of conformity
to traditional feminine norms would relate positively
to an index of global femininity and negatively to an
index of global masculinity. As socially desirable gen-
der role characteristics as measured by the BSRI are
thought to be related to, but distinct from, gender
role ideologies (Thompson & Pleck, 1995), we antic-
ipated that the relationships between global feminin-
ity and the CFNI would be significant but would not
have strong correlations.
In addition, because the CFNI is intended to
measure conformity to traditional norms of femi-
ninity in the U.S., we thought it should also relate
to women’s development of a feminist identity. In
describing women’s feminist identity development,
Downing and Roush (1985) proposed a five-stage
model in which the first stage, passive acceptance,
reflects acceptance of traditional European Ameri-
can, North American, gender roles, beliefs that men
are superior to women, and that these roles are ad-
vantageous. The second stage, revelation, is in re-
sponse to a crisis or crises that lead women to ques-
tion traditional gender roles and to have concomitant
feelings of anger toward men. Sometimes women in
this stage also feel guilty because of how they may
have contributed to their own and other women’s op-
pression in the past. The third stage, embeddedness-
emanation, reflects feelings of connection to other
women, cautious interactions with men, and develop-
ment of a more relativistic frame of life. The fourth
stage, synthesis, is when women develop a positive
feminist identity and are able to transcend traditional
gender roles. The final stage, active commitment, re-
flects beliefs that men are equal to women but not
the same, and reflects a strong commitment to pos-
itive social change that addresses societal inequities
(see Bargad & Hyde, 1991; Downing & Roush, 1985;
Fischer et al., 2000; Moradi, Subich, & Phillips, 2002).
As such, we posit that CFNI scores, which were de-
signed to measure conformity to traditional gender
role norms in the dominant culture of U.S. society,
should be positively related to the passive acceptance
stage scores that reflect acceptance of traditional Eu-
ropean American, North American, gender roles, but
negatively to the other four feminist identity stages
as these reflect ever increasing levels of feminist
The 733 women described in Study 1 and 98 men
participated in this study. Two hundred and eleven of
the 733 women also completed additional measures
for this study (i.e., the Bem Sex Role Inventory and
the Feminist Identity Development Scale), as well
as a demographics form and the CFNI described in
Study 1.
These 211 women averaged 18.83 years of age
(SD =.73) and most were European American (168
European American, 6 African American, 21 Asian
or Asian American, 9 Hispanic/Latina, 1 Native
American, and 6 biracial). Most women reported that
they were single (209 single, 1 married, and 1 person
did not answer) and heterosexual (208 heterosexual,
2 lesbian, and 1 bisexual).
Men in the study averaged 18.81 years of age
(SD =1.02), and most were European American (81
European American, 3 African American, 6 Asian or
Asian American, 6 Hispanic/Latino, and 2 biracial).
426 Mahalik, Morray, Coonerty-Femiano, Ludlow, Slattery, and Smiler
All of the men reported that they were single, and al-
most all identified as heterosexual (96 heterosexual,
1 homosexual, and 1 bisexual).
The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI; Bem, 1974,
1981b) assesses femininity and masculinity with
60-items on which participants are asked to rate
themselves using a 7-point scale on 20 feminine-
typed adjectives, 20 masculine-typed adjectives, and
20 neutral adjectives. Scores of the gender-typed
items are averaged to obtain a femininity raw score
and a masculinity raw score; higher scores indicate
more feminine or masculine traits, respectively.
Evidence for the validity of the scale includes its
significant relationship to gender-related behavior
(Payne, 1985). Further evidence of the validity of
the BSRI has been reported in the Bem Sex-Role
Inventory Professional Manual (Bem, 1981b) and in
Spence (1984). In terms of reliability, Bem (1981b)
reported internal consistency estimates that range
between .75 and .87 for the Femininity and Masculin-
ity scales, and 4-week test-retest correlations for the
two scales that range between .76 and .94 for both
genders. In the current study, alpha was .81 for the
Femininity score and .86 for the Masculinity score.
The Feminist Identity Composite (FIC; Fischer
et al., 2000) was developed to assess feminist iden-
tity development as a composite of 33 items from
two previous measures of feminist identity [i.e., 20
items from the Feminist Identity Scale (Rickard,
1989) and 13 items from the Feminist Identity De-
velopment Scale (Bargad & Hyde, 1991)]. Fischer
et al. (2000) reported a 5-factor structure that re-
sembled Downing and Roush’s (1985) model and
was reported to predict ego identity status, percep-
tions of sexist events, and involvement in women’s
organizations. Fischer et al. (2000) reported inter-
nal consistency estimates that range from .68 to .84
for their first sample and .71 to .86 for their second
sample. Moradi and Subich (2002) reported internal
consistency estimates that range between .73 to .84
in their study. In the present study, alphas were .74
for Passive Acceptance, .81 for Revelation, .89 for
Embeddedness-Emanation, .78 for Synthesis, and .83
for Active Commitment.
The 211 women and 98 men were recruited from
a large undergraduate Introduction to Biology class
at a private northeastern university. Data were col-
lected via a web-based survey with page encryp-
tion and other security procedures. The measures
described above, along with informed consent and
debriefing pages, were converted to a series of web
pages, and participants were provided with an inter-
net address (URL) to complete the survey at a time
and place of their convenience. Participants received
extra credit from their instructor for completing the
Internal Consistency
Examination of the internal consistency esti-
mates on the CFNI for women in the study indicated
that coefficient αwas .88 for the CFNI Total score.
For the Femininity Norm subscales, alphas ranged
from .77 for Romantic Relationship to .92 for Caring
for Children (see Table III).
Table III. Internal Consistencies and Intercorrelations for Women’s Scores on the Total Score and Eight Femininity
Norms Subscales of Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. α
1. Nice in relationships .84
2. Thinness .05 .90
3. Modesty .08.03 .82
4. Domestic .09.14∗∗∗ .09.84
5. Care for children .41∗∗∗ .04 .05 .15∗∗∗ .92
6. Romantic relationship .13∗∗ .24∗∗∗ .12∗∗ .17∗∗∗ .13∗∗ .77
7. Sexual fidelity .18∗∗∗ .06 .14∗∗∗ .19∗∗∗ .18∗∗∗ .09.85
8. Invest in appearance .05 .31∗∗∗ .17∗∗∗ .17∗∗∗ .01 .20∗∗∗ .08.82
9. Total conformity .33∗∗∗ .15∗∗∗ .01 .25∗∗∗ .28∗∗∗ .27∗∗∗ .18∗∗∗ .15∗∗∗ .88
Note.N=733. Subscale/total conformity correlations are corrected.
p<.05. ∗∗ p<.01. ∗∗∗p<.001.
Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory 427
Table IV. Means, Standard Deviations and tValues Comparing Women and Men on CFNI Scores
Women Men
Nice in relationships 39.48 5.97 36.32 6.24 4.89∗∗∗
Thinness 20.87 6.18 15.33 5.32 8.48∗∗∗
Modesty 13.02 3.67 12.51 3.68 1.28
Domestic 14.10 3.10 13.86 3.97 2.67∗∗
Care for children 26.51 6.24 23.77 5.11 4.17∗∗∗
Romantic relationship 15.64 3.73 15.60 3.63 .11
Sexual fidelity 20.22 5.55 16.91 5.98 5.50∗∗∗
Invest in appearance 12.01 3.75 6.30 2.72 14.57∗∗∗
CFNI Total score 162.73 18.26 140.57 15.77 11.45∗∗∗
Note.Nfor the total sample =831 (n=733 for women, n=98 for men); df =829 for all t-tests.
p<.05 1-tail. ∗∗ p<.01 1-tail. ∗∗∗p<.001 1-tail.
CFNI Intercorrelations
Pearson correlations conducted on the relation-
ships of the eight Femininity Norm subscales to each
other and to the Total score on the CFNI are pre-
sented in Table III. Results indicate that the sub-
scale scores correlate from moderate to low levels
with the corrected CFNI Total score (i.e., CFNI Total
score after subtracting that subscale from the Total)
and that the subscales correlate with each other in
the expected directions. The strength of relationship
among the subscales with each other ranges from
very low and nonsignificant to a correlation of .41 be-
tween Nice in Relationships and Care for Children.
Comparisons of Women and Men on CFNI Scores
To determine whether women and men dif-
fered on conformity to femininity norms, their
CFNI Total scores and the eight Femininity Norm
scores were compared using one-tailed t-tests (see
Table IV for means and standard deviations of
women and men participants on the Total score and
eight Femininity Norms subscale scores). Results
indicate that women scored significantly higher than
men on the CFNI Total score, as well as on 6 of the 8
Feminine Norms scores (i.e., Nice in Relationships,
Sexual Fidelity, Be Domestic, Invest in Appearance,
Caring For Children, Thinness). Women did not
score significantly higher than men on Modesty and
Romantic Relationship.
Relation of CFNI Scores to the Bem Sex Role
Inventory and the Feminist Identity
Development Scale
To examine the CFNI Total and the eight Fem-
ininity Norm subscales in relation to the Bem Sex
Role Inventory, Pearson correlations were computed
(see Table V). Results of the analyses indicate that
Table V. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations Between CFNI Total and Subscale Scores and Bem Sex Role Inventory and
Feminist Identity Composite Subscale Scores
Nice in relationships .41∗∗∗ .14 .05 .00 .11 .13 .12 39.63 (5.20)
Thinness .03 .06 .10 .04 .06 .07 .04 21.52 (6.39)
Modesty .01 .19∗∗ .02 .02 .18.25∗∗∗ .09 13.26 (3.88)
Domestic .05 .04 .25∗∗∗ .04 .05 .06 .06 15.19 (3.69)
Care For children .37∗∗∗ .11 .15.13 .04 .08 .08 26.50 (5.22)
Be in a romantic relationship .20∗∗ .13 .19∗∗ .04 .05 .11 .10 15.54 (3.29)
Sexual fidelity .30∗∗∗ .24∗∗ .14.05 .05 .03 .01 22.32 (5.61)
Invest in appearance .07 .05 .10 .05 .04 .13 .1412.28 (3.64)
CFNI total score .40∗∗∗ .20∗∗ .26∗∗∗ .06 .03 .03 .03 166.25 (16.81)
Mean (SD) 5.19 (.56) 4.99 (.66) 18.97 (4.32) 19.99 (4.95) 12.62 (3.29) 21.09 (2.27) 31.57 (4.75)
Note.N=208. BSRIfem =Bem Sex Role Inventory Feminist Identity; BSRImas =Bem Sex Role Inventory Masculine identity;
FICPas =Feminist Identity Scale Passive Acceptance; FICRev =Feminist Identity Scale Revelation; FICEm =Feminist Identity Scale
Embeddedness-Emanation; FICSyn =Feminist Identity Scale synthesis subscale; FICAct =Feminist Identity Scale active commitment.
p<.05 (2-tail). ∗∗ p<.01 (2-tail). ∗∗∗p<.001 (2-tail).
428 Mahalik, Morray, Coonerty-Femiano, Ludlow, Slattery, and Smiler
the CFNI Total scores relate significantly and posi-
tively to the BSRI Femininity score, significantly and
negatively to the BSRI Masculinity score, and signif-
icantly and positively to the FIC Passive Acceptance
Examination of the Femininity Norms subscales
in relation to the BSRI and FIC indicated that Nice
In Relationship scores relate to BSRI Femininity, but
were unrelated to the BSRI Masculinity or the FIC
subscales; Modesty was negatively related to BSRI
Masculinity and the Embeddedness-Emanation
and Synthesis subscales of the FIC; Domestic was
positively related to Passive Acceptance on the FIC;
Care for Children scores were positively related to
BSRI Femininity and Passive Acceptance on the
FIC; Romantic Relationship was positively related
to BSRI Femininity and Passive Acceptance on the
FIC; Sexual Fidelity was positively related to BSRI
Femininity and Passive Acceptance on the FIC, but
negatively related to BSRI Masculinity; and Invest
in Appearance was negatively related to Active
Commitment on the FIC.
The results suggest that the CFNI Total and the
eight Femininity Norm subscales are internally con-
sistent, have low to moderate relationships among
the subscales, and many of the CFNI subscales
differentiate men from women and are related to
femininity, masculinity, and feminist identity in the
predicted ways. Specifically, there were differences
supporting our hypothesis between men and women
on the CFNI total score and six of the eight Femi-
ninity Norms. We did not find, however, significant
differences between men and women on Modesty
and Romantic Relationship. As separate sociocul-
tural schemas exist for femininity and masculinity
(Bem, 1981a), the fact that these two subscales did
not differentiate men from women in this study might
suggest that refraining from calling attention to one’s
talents or abilities and investing oneself in a romantic
relationship may not be distinctly feminine norms
in the U.S. However, other results from this study
support our contention that Modesty and Romantic
Relationship are traditional feminine norms from the
dominant culture in the U.S. Specifically, Modesty
was related significantly and negatively to masculin-
ity, as well as negatively related to the higher levels of
feminist identity (i.e., embeddedness-emanation and
synthesis), and Romantic Relationship was positively
associated with femininity and passive acceptance
of traditional, North American, gender roles. Thus,
these two scores have significant relationships to the
BSRI and FIC constructs in ways that support their
validity as indicators of traditional femininity.
Results of our examination of the relationship
of the CFNI to the Bem Sex Role Inventory also
indicate that the CFNI Total score was related pos-
itively to femininity and negatively to masculinity.
However, we note that the relationship between
the CFNI Total score and the Femininity score was
moderate, as predicted. This supports our prediction
that socially desirable feminine characteristics are
related to, but distinct from, feminine ideologies.
Also, we note that the BSRI Femininity score only
significantly related to Nice in Relationships, Care
for Children, Romantic Relationship, and Sexual
Fidelity. We interpret this finding as supporting our
contention that the BSRI does not incorporate many
salient femininity norms found in U.S. society. These
relationships also support Spence and Helreich’s
(1980) conclusion that the BSRI assesses expres-
sive traits as the BSRI was related to the CFNI
scores that reflect caretaking and involvement in
The results also support our hypothesis that
CFNI scores, which were designed to measure
conformity to traditional gender role norms in the
dominant culture of U.S. society, should be positively
related to acceptance of traditional European Amer-
ican, North American, gender roles (i.e., passive
acceptance), but negatively to the stages that reflect
increasing levels of feminist identity. Although none
of the CFNI scores related to the revelation stage,
it appears that the CFNI Total score—and the Do-
mestic, Care for Children, Romantic Relationship,
and Sexual Fidelity scores—are all associated with
believing that traditional European American, North
American gender roles are advantageous. Specif-
ically, the CFNI subscales that assess conformity
to traditional norms associated with homemaking,
childcare, and being married (i.e., faithful in a
romantic relationship) were the variables related to
passive acceptance of traditional gender roles.
Consideration of the CFNI’s relationship to
the other stages of feminist identity revealed that
the CFNI was unrelated to many of the other
stages of feminist identity. However, two of the
subscales did correlate with the stages that reflect
greater feminist identity. Specifically, Modesty was
related negatively to feeling connected to other
women (Embededness-Emanation) and developing
Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory 429
a positive feminist identity (Synthesis). Also, In-
vest in Appearance related negatively to women’s
self-report of a strong commitment to positive so-
cial change that addresses societal inequities (Ac-
tive Commitment). As such, women who were more
likely to speak up about their accomplishments (i.e.,
low on Modesty) and less likely to focus on their
physical appearance (i.e., low on Invest in Appear-
ance) were more likely to report higher levels of
feminist identity.
The purpose of this study was to examine the re-
lationship between CFNI scores and scores on the
Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI-2; Garner, 1991).
Among all of the identified norms of femininity,
those involving appearance may be some of the most
salient in the lives of women in the U.S. (Crawford &
Unger, 2000). Western culture’s stereotype of femi-
ninity seems to involve the belief that women should
be focused upon both taking care of their own ap-
pearance and being thin (Worell & Todd, 1996).
Women who fail to meet these cultural prescriptions
for attractiveness may experience sanctions for be-
ing “insufficiently feminine” (Fiske & Stevens, 1993),
and internalization of this “thin ideal” has been asso-
ciated with eating and weight concerns (Low et al.,
A significant body of literature supports the hy-
pothesis that women experience much higher lev-
els of body dissatisfaction than do men. Concerns
about physical attractiveness have been found to be
more prevalent in girls and women than in boys and
men (Mintz & Betz, 1986; Worell & Todd, 1996).
Demarest and Langer (1996) found that overweight
women reported the highest levels of body dissatis-
faction in a comparison of body perception among
underweight, average-weight, and overweight men
and women. Women of average weight in the study
reported approximately the same level of body dis-
satisfaction as did overweight men. Furthermore,
these gender differences in levels of body dissatis-
faction begin to appear with the onset of adoles-
cence, and they continue well past middle adulthood
(Tiggeman & Pennington, 1996).
The cultural norms for physical attractiveness
and the “thin ideal” may be particularly salient for
European American women (Crawford & Unger,
2000). In a study by Powell and Kahn (1995),
European American women chose a significantly
thinner ideal body size and expressed more concern
with weight and dieting than did African American
women. Results of that study suggest that European
American women experience greater social pressure
to be thin than do African American women, which
may lead to the higher rates of eating disorders
among European American women than among
African American women.
It was therefore expected that rigid internaliza-
tion of feminine norms for appearance (Be Thin and
Invest in Appearance), as evidenced by high levels
of conformity to these norms, would be associated
with higher levels of eating disordered behavior, neg-
ative body image, and preoccupation with weight as
assessed by the EDI. However, the relationships be-
tween other dimensions of femininity besides those
that are directly related to appearance may also be
associated with eating disordered behaviors. Prior re-
searchers who have attempted to link femininity and
eating disordered behaviors have been considerably
limited by instruments that tap only limited aspects
of gender, typically self-reported personality traits.
According to Worell and Todd (1996), “in the face
of the broad reach of gender stereotypes and roles,
simple measures of trait femininity are not likely to
bear the weight of explaining the complex behavior
patterns involved in developmental concerns such as
depression or disordered eating” (p. 139). Use of the
CFNI to assess multiple components of conformity to
a broad range of feminine norms may provide a more
complex perspective examining the relationship be-
tween femininity and eating disordered behavior.
Participants and Procedure
Three hundred and eighty women participated
in this study. These women were participants in
Study 1, but they also completed the Eating Disorder
Inventory – 2, along with a demographics form and
CFNI described in Study 1 (alphas in this study for
the eight Femininity Norms subscales ranged from
.77 to .93, with α=.89 for the Total score of the
CFNI). These women averaged 19.28 years (SD =
1.27), and most were European American (307 Eu-
ropean American, 12 African American, 28 Asian
or Asian American, 16 Hispanic/Latina, 1 Native
American, 8 biracial, and 8 described themselves as
“Other”) and heterosexual (369 heterosexual, 1 les-
bian, 8 bisexual, and 2 who identified as “Other”).
430 Mahalik, Morray, Coonerty-Femiano, Ludlow, Slattery, and Smiler
Most participants were single (330 single, 45 single
and cohabitating, 3 married, and 2 did not report).
This group consisted of 163 freshman, 150 sopho-
mores, 40 juniors, and 27 seniors.
The Eating Disorder Inventory – 2 (EDI-2;
Garner, 1991) is a 64-item self-report measure of
symptoms commonly associated with anorexia and
bulimia nervosa. Respondents are asked to indicate
whether each item applies to them on a 6-point scale
that includes always,usually,often,sometimes,rarely,
and never. Responses are then recoded from the 6-
point scale into a 4-point scale that ranges from 0
to 3, in which 0 is assigned to the three responses
that represent the least symptomatic answers, and 3
is assigned to the most symptomatic answer (Garner,
The EDI-2 was developed to assess psycho-
logical characteristics associated with eating disor-
ders based on the assumption that disordered eating
is multidimensional in nature (Garner, Olmsted, &
Polivy, 1983). The original factor analysis revealed
eight scales: (a) Drive for Thinness, (b) Bulimia,
(c) Body Dissatisfaction, (d) Ineffectiveness, (e) Per-
fectionism, (f) Interpersonal Distrust, (g) Interocep-
tive Awareness, and (h) Maturity Fears.
The EDI has been used in over 400 studies
(Garner, 1991), which support the 8-factor structure
(Garner et al., 1983). EDI scores have been reported
to discriminate between eating disordered and non-
clinical samples (Garner, 1991) and to classify cor-
rectly 85% of participants into bulimic and restrictor
subtypes. In addition, the EDI and its subscales have
been reported to relate significantly to the Eating At-
titudes Test and body size estimations (see Garner,
1991). Internal consistency data reported for the
EDI indicate Cronbach alphas that ranged from .82
to .90 (Eberly & Eberly, 1985). Test-retest reliability
correlation coefficients for each of the scales, except
Maturity Fears, are reportedly .80 or higher over
a 3-week period and range from .47 to .76 across a
1-year period (Crowther, Lilly, Crawford, &
Shepherd, 1992). In the present study, alphas were
.77 for Drive for Thinness, .63 for Bulimia, .82 for
Body Dissatisfaction, .79 for Ineffectiveness, .35 for
Perfectionism, .68 for Interpersonal Distrust, .72 for
Interoceptive Awareness, .71 for Maturity Fears,
and .91 for the EDI Total score. Because the internal
consistency for the Perfectionism scale was so low, it
was dropped from further analyses in this study.
Pearson correlations were computed to examine
the CFNI Total and eight Femininity Norm subscales
in relation to the Eating Disorder Inventory – 2 (see
Table VI). Results from the analyses indicated that
the CFNI Total scores related significantly and pos-
itively the EDI Total score, as well as to the EDI-2
subscale scores of Drive For Thinness, Bulimia, Body
Dissatisfaction, and Interoceptive Awareness.
Examination of the CFNI subscales in relation
to the EDI-2 indicated that Nice in Relationships
scores were negatively related to Ineffectiveness and
Interpersonal Distrust. Thinness scores were signifi-
cantly and positively related to all of the EDI scores
and the Total score. Modesty scores were positively
related to the EDI Total score and the subscales of
Table VI. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations Between CFNI Total and Subscale Scores and Eating Disorders Inventory – 2
Drivethin Bulim Bodydiss Ineffect Intdis Inaware Matufear EDI Total Mean (SD)
Nice in relationships .02 .02 .01 .17∗∗ .17∗∗ .02 .05 .07 39.41 (6.38)
Thinness .66∗∗∗ .41∗∗∗ .63∗∗∗ .23∗∗∗ .11.26∗∗∗ .13.56∗∗∗ 20.74 (6.17)
Modesty .05 .06 .07 .17∗∗ .24∗∗ .12.06 .15∗∗ 12.79 (3.56)
Domestic .07 .01 .03 .07 .07 .06 .09 .04 14.73 (4.07)
Care for children .06 .08 .03 .20∗∗∗ .18∗∗ .10 .09 .15∗∗ 25.87 (6.45)
Be in a romantic .13.16∗∗ .11.16∗∗ .08 .19∗∗∗ .09 .18∗∗∗ 15.35 (3.81)
Sexual fidelity .05 .10 .02 .09 .06 .02 .05 .06 21.62 (5.95)
Invest in appearance .25∗∗∗ .14∗∗ .18∗∗∗ .09 .07 .11.02 .20∗∗∗ 11.87 (3.81)
CFNI total score .27∗∗∗ .15∗∗ .26∗∗∗ .01 .07 .12.01 .18∗∗∗ 162.39 (19.15)
Mean (SD) 6.11 (4.91) 3.19 (3.71) 9.87 (6.00) 3.89 (4.88) 2.58 (3.02) 5.88 (5.61) 5.48 (4.50) 44.17 (22.27)
Note.N=380. Drivethin =Drive for Thinness; Bulim =Bulimia; Bodydiss =Body Dissatisfaction; Ineffect =Ineffectiveness; Intdis =
Interpersonal Distrust; Inaware =Interoceptive Awareness; Matufear =Maturity Fears.
p<.05 (2-tail). ∗∗ p<.01 (2-tail). ∗∗∗p<.001.
Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory 431
Ineffectiveness, Interpersonal Distrust, and Intero-
ceptive Awareness. Care For Children scores were
negatively related to the EDI Total score and the
subscales Ineffectiveness and Interpersonal Distrust.
Romantic Relationship scores were positively related
to the EDI Total score as well as the subscales
of Drive For Thinness, Bulimia, Body Dissatisfac-
tion, Ineffectiveness, and Interoceptive Awareness.
Invest in Appearance scores were positively related
to the EDI Total score and the subscales of Drive
For Thinness, Bulimia, Body Dissatisfaction, Perfec-
tionism, and Interoceptive Awareness. The Domes-
tic and Sexual Fidelity scores of the CFNI were unre-
lated to any EDI scores.
The results of this study present a complex pic-
ture of femininity’s relationship to women’s eating
and body image issues. As predicted, there was a sig-
nificant, positive relationship between the CFNI To-
tal score and the EDI total score, which suggests that
conformity to the dominant culture’s norms of femi-
ninity may be related to the development of eating
disordered symptomatology. The positive correla-
tions between the CFNI Total score and the EDI sub-
scale scores, including Drive for Thinness, Bulimia,
Body Dissatisfaction, and Interoceptive Awareness
also support this conclusion. Similar patterns were
found between specific CFNI subscales related to ap-
pearance and EDI scores. For example, Thinness was
positively associated with all six EDI subscales as
well as the EDI Total score, and Invest in Appear-
ance was positively correlated with 5 of the 6 EDI
subscales (Drive for Thinness, Bulimia, Body Dissat-
isfaction, Perfectionism, and Interoceptive Aware-
ness), along with the EDI Total score. As such,
the results of this study support the hypothesis that
conformity to feminine norms generally, as well as
appearance-related norms specifically, are positively
associated with eating disorder symptomatology as
assessed by the EDI.
However, our results also suggest that con-
formity to some norms of femininity that are not
appearance-related may also be associated with
behaviors related to eating disorders. For instance,
Modesty was positively associated with EDI total
scores, as well as the Ineffectiveness, Interpersonal
Distrust, and Interoceptive Awareness subscales. It
seems plausible that the forces that lead a woman
to feel she must downplay her accomplishments and
assets might contribute to her feeling inadequate in a
number of domains, including her abilities to manage
her life, her relationships, and even her own internal
emotional states as reflected in these three EDI sub-
scales. A second CFNI subscale, Romantic Relation-
ship, was positively correlated with the EDI Total
score and the following subscale scores: Drive for
Thinness, Bulimia, Body Dissatisfaction. Ineffective-
ness, and Interoceptive Awareness. We can speculate
that women may experience their physical attrac-
tiveness (particularly their body shape and size) as
playing a crucial role in their ability to establish and
maintain a relationship with a male partner. From a
sociobiological approach, women’s attention to their
physical attractiveness ensures that they will be se-
lected as desirable mates. A focus upon appearance
may allow women to feel a sense of control in a sit-
uation that might otherwise elicit feelings of power-
lessness and confusion. It is not surprising, therefore,
that women who place great value upon the attain-
ment of romantic relationships may also experience
considerable self-scrutiny in terms of their physical
appearance, and thus engage in the associated
dieting behaviors.
It is interesting that some femininity factors,
specifically Nice in Relationships and Care for Chil-
dren, actually seem to be associated with healthier
eating attitudes. The Nice in Relationships subscale
was negatively associated with two EDI subscales:
Ineffectiveness and Interpersonal Distrust. It seems
plausible that women who put a great deal of time,
care, and attention into their relationships derive a
sense of competence from their abilities to maintain
these connections, as well as a sense of stable attach-
ment and trust in these partners as a result of their
interpersonal efforts. A similar effect may contribute
to the negative associations between the Caring for
Children norm and the following EDI scores: the
Total score, Ineffectiveness, and Interpersonal Dis-
trust. Women who devote their time and energy to
nurturing and caring for children, or plan to do so,
may derive a sense of competence and connection
from these interactions, which may detract from the
pressure to focus their identity and success on their
In summary, this study supports the assumption
that body dissatisfaction and engagement in weight-
control behaviors are indeed positively associated
with conformity to appearance-related feminine
norms. This study also highlights the complexity
of the relationship between femininity and eating
disorder symptomatology. That is, as expected,
432 Mahalik, Morray, Coonerty-Femiano, Ludlow, Slattery, and Smiler
appearance-related norms of femininity were pos-
itively associated with eating and body issues.
However, other elements of traditional femininity,
including Being in a Romantic Relationship and
Modesty, also seem to play a role in the development
of these issues, and other feminine norms, including
Nice in Relationships and Care for Children, were
associated with fewer of these symptoms.
This study was designed to examine the tempo-
ral stability of the CFNI Total and its eight Fem-
ininity Norm subscales, as further indicators of its
Participants and Procedure
Thirty-nine women participated in this part of
the study. All of these women also participated in
Study 1, but in addition to the data they provided
for the factor analysis, these participants also com-
pleted the CFNI again 2–3 weeks after the first ad-
ministration. The 39 women averaged 27.10 years of
age (SD =6.60), and most were European American
(34 European American, 2 Asian or Asian American,
and 3 Hispanic/Latina). Most women reported that
they were single (34 single, 2 married, 1 divorced, 1 in
committed same-sex partner, and 1 committed male
To examine the temporal stability for a 2–3 week
time period, CFNI scores at Time 1 were correlated
with CFNI scores at Time 2. Test-retest coefficients
(i.e., Pearson correlations) were .94 for the Total
CFNI score, and .83 for Nice in Relationships, .93
for Sexual Fidelity, .83 for Be Domestic, .91 for In-
vest in Appearance, .95 for Caring for Children, .85
for Modest, .86 for Thinness, and .86 for Romantic
The results from the four studies provide sup-
port for the reliability and validity of the CFNI for
the mostly European American, heterosexual, and
young adult population sampled. Specifically, results
from the studies suggest that the CFNI has eight dis-
tinct factors, that these factors relate in theoretically
consistent ways to the other constructs we examined,
which supports its validity, and that the inventory has
high internal consistency estimates and test-retest
reliabilities over a 2–3 week period.
As such, we view our results as supporting the
work of scholars who have identified a large num-
ber of normative messages associated with femininity
(e.g., see Crawford & Unger, 2000; Gilbert & Scher,
1999). Specifically, the CFNI, as a multidimensional
measure of femininity, seems able to differentiate
among several of the distinct cultural injunctions con-
cerning femininity in the dominant culture in U.S.
society today.
Potential Uses for the CFNI
The CFNI was developed as a tool for use by
researchers and clinicians to examine femininity is-
sues with individuals by assessing conformity to an
array of femininity norms. In terms of research, the
CFNI could be used to examine the complex, mul-
tidimensional ways that women experience and re-
spond to femininity issues in their lives. Researchers
might also examine whether variables such as SES,
cultural membership, and the gender role norms of
important peer groups—as examples of social influ-
ence factors—and variables such as self-esteem or at-
tachment to parents—as examples of individual dif-
ference factors—predict femininity in women. It can
also be used to test Mahalik et al.’s (2003) supposi-
tion that there are benefits and costs to the individ-
ual and others for conforming to, and not conforming
to, a variety of gender role norms. Testing this could
be done in a variety of ways including by examining
data on psychological health, identity development,
health-related behaviors, quality of relationships, or
a host of other variables to determine benefits and
costs for the individual and others to conformity or
nonconformity to an array of femininity norms.
As mental health professionals have advocated
increasingly for integrating a gendered perspective
into assessment and treatment with clients (e.g.,
Brooks & Good, 2001; Brown, 1986; Gilbert & Scher,
1999; Good, Gilbert, & Scher, 1990; Mahalik, 1999a,
1999b), once normed, the CFNI may provide such a
tool for the assessment of a large number of feminine
norms with female clients, which would allow a richer
understanding of the salient aspects of femininity for
Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory 433
a given individual. Although research must be done
to determine if interventions that incorporate inter-
pretation of the CFNI with clients are helpful and for
what issues, consistent with feminist theory (Brown,
1986), we speculate that it may be useful to explore
with female clients how their conformity or noncon-
formity to any of the femininity norms both bene-
fits them in daily living as well as contributes stress
to their relationships, work, and health. Clinical in-
terventions might focus on helping female clients to
change aspects of the gendered self in which the costs
associated with conformity or nonconformity out-
weigh the benefits the client experiences.
The fact that the samples were mostly Euro-
pean American, heterosexual, college students in
the United States is a limitation to both the gen-
eralizability of the findings and to our knowledge
about the psychometric properties of the CFNI with
other groups of women. As femininity is a cultur-
ally defined construct (Kimmel, 2000; Mead, 1935)
that varies as a function of life-stage (Sheehy, 1976),
race, and ethnicity (Vasquez, 2003; Wyche, 2001),
and changes through history (Kimmel, 2000), it is im-
portant from a psychometric perspective to examine
other groups of women to determine if the CFNI has
the same 8-factor structure and acceptable psycho-
metric properties with other groups of women.
It is also vitally important from a theoretical
and clinical perspective to examine groups of women
from diverse backgrounds in future research. Specif-
ically, as Mahalik et al. (2003) stated that gender role
norms from the most powerful culture in a society
affect the experiences of persons in that group, as
well as persons in all other groups, we believe that
“minority women” (e.g., racial minorities, sexual ori-
entation minorities) and women from less powerful
groups (e.g., lower SES groups) are affected by the
dominant culture’s notions of femininity.
Further, Lazur and Majors (1995) wrote that,
“For a man of color, defining his own gender role in-
volves integration of the dominant society’s restric-
tions. Measuring himself against the standard that
dictates the male gender role for the dominant cul-
ture yet denies equal access to the opportunities that
sustain that standard evokes in the man of color frus-
trations, unexpressed emotions, and a drive for sur-
vival” (p. 340). We believe that minority women also
experience the same dynamics and that use of the
CFNI with minority women would allow the oppor-
tunity to explore these issues in research and clini-
cal practice. Questions could be asked, such as “how
does racial identity contribute to minority women’s
identification with or non-identification with femi-
nine norms from the dominant culture?” The same
dynamics should also be relevant for issues such as
acculturation, sexual identity development, or an ar-
ray of other sociocultural variables. Because we be-
lieve that there are both benefits and costs to con-
formity and nonconformity to feminine norms in the
dominant culture, a measure that assesses specifically
the dominant culture’s construction of femininity has
utility for scientists and practitioners who address
minority women’s concerns.
In conclusion, we believe that the results of these
studies offer initial evidence supporting the reliabil-
ity and validity of the 8-factor CFNI. Given that men-
tal health professionals are increasingly integrating
a gendered perspective into their work, the CFNI
may provide a useful tool in working with female
clients, as well as a useful tool to examine important
questions about the benefits and costs for individu-
als, families, and communities as a function of con-
formity and nonconformity to feminine norms.
We would like to thank all of the women who
participated in the first focus groups, the graduate
students who participated in the second focus groups,
Sam Wan for technical help with the survey, and Mari
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... Conformity to gender norms describe the process in which individuals behave, think and feel in accordance to their gender (Mahalik, et al., 2005). Pioneering psychologists in the field of gender norms and psychology emphasized that gender norms are enforced because they provide an organized, collective, and dichotomous understanding of gendered behavior (Pleck, 1987). ...
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... Although the Bem Sex Roles Inventory has been one of the most widely used instruments because of its connection of the androgyny model with health (Bem, 1974), its structure does not include other genderrelated behaviors and attitudes that could be relevant to health. In addition, the absence of non-binary sex/gender measures hinders the work of researchers, as the available instruments are either designed for men or women, or assess femininity or masculinity from bipolar or unipolar perspectives (Bem, 1974;Levant et al., 2007;Mahalik et al., 2003Mahalik et al., , 2005Smiler & Epstein, 2010). ...
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The aim of the present study was to conduct a preliminary study of the Stanford Gender-Related Variables for Health Research (GVHR) adapted to the Spanish population, testing its factor structure, sex factorial invariance and relationship with health variables. Participants were 438 adults between 19–73 years old ( M = 31.90, SD = 12.12) who completed the GVHR and measures of health-related quality of life, psychological health, and health-risk behaviors. The confirmatory factorial analysis of the GVHR indicated an acceptable fit to the 7-factor structure as proposed for the North American population. Emotional intelligence and independence factors had low internal consistency, therefore, a five-factor model was tenable in the Spanish population. Sex scalar invariance was tenable, indicating that the factors latent means can be meaningfully compared across sex. Univariate logistic regressions indicated that women reported worse mental and physical health and more health limitations, but this effect dissipated when gender variables were considered. Caregiver and work strain stood out as the variables related to gender that predicted worse health-related quality of life, psychological health, and health-risk behaviors. In conclusion, factorial structure of the GVHR may differ from one culture to another. Additionally, the variables related to gender in the GVHR give a better account of the differences in health compared to biological sex.
... Complementing traditional masculinity, models of traditional femininity ideology have been advanced (e.g., Levant et al., 2017;Mahalik et al., 2005;Tolman and Porche, 2000). Some of the key norms identified in these models include deference to and dependence on men, investing in one's appearance, modesty about one's talents or abilities, avoiding activities and behaviors associated with boys or men, and sexual fidelity in the context of a heterosexual relationship. ...
We review how sexist ideologies and practices perpetuate male dominance in society during adolescence. Their deleterious impacts on girls, gender- and sexual-minoritized youth, and gender-nonconforming boys are emphasized, although we also describe their negative effects for gender-conforming boys. Conceptual models of sexist attitudes and traditional gender ideologies are explained, and their correlates with adolescents’ behaviors are summarized. Next, we document the prevalence and effects of sexualization, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. Also, we address how gender-biased experiences undermine youth in academic and athletic settings. Finally, we review factors related to adolescents’ awareness of sexism, coping, and potential strategies for preventing sexism.
... La conformidad con los roles de género femeninos se evaluó mediante The Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory (CFNI) (Mahalik et al., 2005) en su versión reducida al español (CFNI-45) (Aparicio-García y Alvarado, 2019), compuesto por preguntas por 45 preguntas en escala Likert de 4 puntos que van de 1 (Totalmente en desacuerdo) a 4 (Totalmente de acuerdo). El CFNI-45 está compuesto por nueve subescalas. ...
... Additionally, violence, dominance, and power over women have been consistently identified as distinct factors of masculinity in validated instruments (Mahalik et al., 2003;Parent & Moradi, 2009). In contrast, dimensions of femininity prioritize traits focused on maintenance of relationships with others like modesty, being sweet and nice, and putting others first (Mahalik et al., 2005;Parent & Moradi, 2010). This theoretical framework begins to elucidate how gender differences in aggression can be viewed as a subset of societally affirmed gender expressing behaviors. ...
Disordered anger has been associated with a range of threats to individual and public health including increased risk of physical and mental health problems as well as aggressive and violent behavior. Previous research has established relationships between anger, anger expression, and gender. Differences in anger expression may be partially attributed to variation in multiple aspects of gender. Existing literature has been reliant on limited gender identity measures and primarily focused on the role of masculinity as a predictor of aggression and violence. The current study aims to address this gap by using continuous gender items to categorize participants into multifaceted profiles of gender (Archetypical Men, Archetypical Women, Intertypical Men, Intertypical Women, and Nonconforming) that are characterized by specific gender identity, expression, and perception scores. The current study explores the relationship between anger and anger expression within and between these gender profiles. An online survey administered a continuous measure of sex and gender along with valid measures of anger and aggression to 152 adult participants. As predicted, results indicated that anger scores were positively associated with anger expression scores. The relationship between anger parameters and anger expression did differ between gender groups, although most comparisons fell short of statistical significance. Unexpectedly, Intertypical Women emerged as the group with the highest anger and anger expression scores. Implications, interpretations, and methodological topics are discussed.
Masculine men are more likely to idealise being tall, muscular, and lean. Feminine men, on the other hand, are more likely to idealise leanness. At the trait level, masculinity and femininity have been linked with an unhealthy striving for these idealised traits and body dissatisfaction. However, it is unclear how feeling masculine or feminine in the moment might be associated with body satisfaction. Is feeling masculine and/or feminine associated with a boost in body satisfaction? In the first large-scale experience sampling study of masculinity and femininity (nobservations=25,133; Nparticipants=530), we find that state masculinity and femininity, but not trait, are associated with increased body satisfaction among sexual minority men. We also find a gender congruence effect whereby the positive associations between state masculinity/femininity on body satisfaction are more pronounced when these feelings align with trait levels of masculinity/femininity. Exploratory analyses revealed a moderating effect of eating disorder history. The associations between masculinity and femininity on body satisfaction were amplified for people who had been diagnosed with an eating disorder. This study presents the first evidence that the links between masculinity and femininity and body satisfaction can be delineated based on whether they are measured as traits or states.
Notre objectif est de comprendre la façon dont les normes culturelles de genre influencent la possibilité pour les professionnelles migrantes venant d’Asie et des pays d’Europe de l’Est de s’impliquer dans la sphère professionnelle dans le secteur des Big Four. Pour cela, nous avons interviewé 40 femmes et leurs superviseurs de différentes nationalités au sein des quatre acteurs principaux du secteur de l’audit et du conseil à Luxembourg. Cet environnement extrêmement multiculturel présente un contexte organisationnel nécessitant une implication souvent difficile à concilier avec la vie familiale. Nous mobilisons le cadre théorique de l’intersectionnalité multi-niveaux (Winker & Degele, 2011) pour suggérer que les normes culturelles de genre croisent le statut hiérarchique et familial des femmes professionnelles migrantes quand elles arrivent à Luxembourg ainsi que leurs motivations pour migrer. Cette interaction permet d’expliquer leur capacité à prendre de la distance par rapport à leurs normes culturelles de genre et à s’investir dans la sphère professionnelle. Nous contribuons à la littérature sur les carrières féminines en soulignant que l’influence des normes sociales de genre sur les carrières des femmes, en interaction avec d’autres facteurs, peuvent mener au succès.
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Although research on men's gender role conflict reveals that it adversely affects men's psychological health and interpersonal relationships, psychotherapists typically underuse knowledge of masculine gender roles in psychological assessment and treatment. Interpersonal psychotherapy is proposed as a useful framework for working with men whose rigid enactment of traditional male gender roles leads to intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict (i.e., gender role conflict). Thus, this article integrates knowledge of male gender role conflict and interpersonal psychotherapy to examine issues that men who experience gender role conflict bring to their important interpersonal relationships and the therapeutic relationship.
The development and validation of a new measure, the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) is described. The EDI is a 64 item, self-report, multiscale measure designed for the assessment of psychological and behavioral traits common in anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia. The EDI consists of eight subscales measuring: Drive for Thinness, Bilimia, Body Dissatisfaction, Ineffectiveness, Perfectionism, Interpersonal Distrust, Interoceptive Awareness and Maturity Fears. Reliability (internal consistency) is established for all subscales and several indices of validity are presented. First, AN patients (N=113) are differentiated from femal comparison (FC) subjects (N=577) using a cross-validation procedure. Secondly, patient self-report subscale scores agree with clinician ratings of subscale traits. Thirdly, clinically recovered AN patients score similarly to FCs on all subscales. Finally, convergent and discriminant validity are established for subscales. The EDI was also administered to groups of normal weight bulimic women, obese, and normal weight but formerly obese women, as well as a male comparison group. Group differences are reported and the potential utility of the EDI is discussed.
Psychologists will be better prepared to intervene effectively with male clients if they can assess how their male clients' experiences as men in society have contributed to their presenting problems. In this article, the author reviews how masculine gender role strain contributes to men's cognitive distortions and leads to, for example, aggressiveness, an overemphasis on achievement, and relational and emotional disconnection. Eight areas of salient gender role messages for men are examined to facilitate clinicians' assessments of men's gender related cognitive distortions. In the final section of the article, issues salient to treating men who endorse these gender related cognitive distortions are discussed. By focusing on the influence of men's gender role socialization on presenting problems, it is hoped that clinicians may be empathic to the social context that contributes to men's cognitive distortions and clinicians can reduce the effects of gender role strain in male clients.