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This paper calls attention to the impact of masculinity ideology, an aspect of gender-related attitudes, on adolescent males' heterosexual relationships. Previous approaches to the male gender role and close relationships, and attitudes toward the male gender role (the operationalization of masculinity ideology), are briefly reviewed. Data from the 1988 National Survey of Adolescent Males are reported. With sociodemographic and personal background factors controlled, males who hold traditional attitudes toward masculinity indicate having more sexual partners in the last year, a less intimate relationship at last intercourse with the current partner, and greater belief that relationships between women and men are adversarial—characteristics suggesting less intimacy in their heterosexual relationships. They also report less consistent use of condoms, specific attitudes about condoms associated with low condom use, less belief in male responsibility to prevent pregnancy, and greater belief that pregnancy validates masculinity. These associations persist when more global gender role attitudes are controlled. Traditional masculinity ideology is thus associated with characteristics suggesting limitations in the quality of adolescent males' close heterosexual relationships, and increased risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
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Journal
of
Social Issues. Vol.
49. No. .?.
1993,
pp. 11-29
Masculinity Ideology:
Its Impact
on
Adolescent Males'
Heterosexual Relationships
Joseph
H.
Pleck
Weliesley College Center
for
Research
on
Women
Freya
L.
Sonenstein
and
Leighton
C. Ku
Urban Instilule
This paper calls attention
to the
impact
of
masculinity ideology,
an
aspect
of
gender-related attitudes,
on
adolescent males' heterosexual relationships. Previ-
ous approaches
to the
male gender role
and
close relationships,
and
attitudes
toward the male gender
role
(the operationalization of masculinity ideology),
are
briefly reviewed. Data from
the
1988 National Survey
of
Adolescent Males
are
reported, With sociodemographic and personal background factors controlled,
males
who
hold traditional attitudes toward masculinity indicate having more
sexual partners
in the
last year,
a
less intimate relationship
at
last intercourse
with
the
current partner,
and
greater belief that relationships between women
and men
are
adversarialcharacteristics suggesting less intimacy
in
their
het-
erosexual relationships. They also report less consistent use of condoms, specific
attitudes about condoms associated with
low
condom
use,
less belief in male
responsibility
to
prevent pregnancy,
and
greater belief that pregnancy validates
masculinity. These associations persist when more global gender role attitudes
are controlled. Traditional masculinity ideology
is
thus associated with charac-
teristics suggesting limitations
in the
quality
of
adolescent males' close hetero-
This research
was
supported
by
grants from
the
National Institute
of
Child Health
and
Human
Development,
and
from
the
Office
of
Adolescent Pregnancy Programs,
A
preliminarj' versioti
of
thi.s
paper
was
presented
at the
American Psychological Association,
San
Francisco, August
1991 The
authors wi.sh
to
thank James Kershaw
for
his assistance,
and
Edward Thompson,
Jr and
the Journal's
Editorial Board members
and
reviewers
for
their comments.
Correspondence regarding this article should
be
addressed
to
Joseph
H.
Pleck, Center
for
Research
on
Women, Weliesley College, Weliesley,
MA
02181.
11
0O22^537.'93'0900-001 IS07.00.'I «• !99.1 The SoacK lor Ihc PsjthoJojiical .Sludy of Social Issues
12 Pleck, Sooenstein, and Ku
sexual relationships, and increased risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually
transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
Social-psychological research has adopted two broad theoretical approaches
to the male gender role: (1) trait perspectives, focusitig on the sources and
consequences of the extent to which men actually have characteristics culturally
defined as masculine, and (2) normative perspectives, deriving from the social
constructionist view of gender roles, which concentrate on the nature and conse-
quences of the standards by which cultures define masculinity. To illustrate the
difference, a "traditional" male, in terms of gender-related {personality traits,
actually has culturally defined masculine characteristics. Viewed in the norma-
tive conception, the traditional male is one who believes that men should have
these characteristics. These two interpretations of masculinity correspond to
different modes of assessment at the individual level—the former conception
employing trait measures, and the latter using attitudinal measures concerning
endorsement of traditional expectations or standards for males.
Using the normative perspective, this study examines the influence of mas-
culinity ideology on adolescent males' behavior and attitudes in close heterosex-
ual relationships. Masculinity ideology refers to beliefs about the importance of
men adhering to culturally defined standards for male behavior, and the construct
is operationalized by measures of attitudes toward the male gender role. We first
briefly discuss how previous perspectives on the male gender role have inter-
preted the link between masculinity and close relationships. We develop the
concept of masculinity ideology, and present data concerning the association
between masculinity ideology and characteristics of adolescent males' heterosex-
ual relationships and adolescent males' contraceptive behavior and attitudes.
Finally, we consider implications of the results for the quality of close relation-
ships and for sexual and contraceptive behavior.
Prior Approaches to the Male Gender Role
Male Sex Role Identity
The construct of masculinity ideology should be considered against the
background of two earlier approaches to the male gender role. The first of these,
"male sex role identity," was the dominant psychological theory about mas-
culinity from the 1940s to the early 1970s (Pleck, 1981, 1983). Rooted in
psychoanalysis, the theory's fundamental idea is that the acquisition of gender
role identity in males is thwarted by relative absence of male models, feminized
environments in schools, and women's changing roles, so that males are at
considerable risk of not acquiring a secure gender role identity. Insecure male
identity is operationalized as scoring "feminine" on bipolar masculinity-
Masculinity Ideolog>' 13
femininity scales or other measures of sex typing that treats masculinity and
femininity as opposite ends of a single dimension; in more complex fomiula-
tions,
combinations of measures thought to assess masculinity-femininity at
conscious and unconscious levels of personality are employed. As applied to
close relationships, the theory holds that insecure male identity leads to diffi-
culties in establishing and maintaining heterosexual relationships. Kagan and
Moss (1962), for example, interpreted the association they found between low
degree of masculine sex typing in childhood and "avoidance of premarital .sexu-
ality" in adolescence and young adulthood in this way. According to the theor)',
other manifestations of insecure male identity especially relevant to close rela-
tionships include male homosexuality and negative attitudes toward women.
The theory of male sex role identity has generally fallen into disuse as a
perspective guiding re.search on male gender roles. Many of its component lines
of research have produced results difficult to reconcile with the theor\', for
example, studies of the consequences of father absence (Adams, Milner, &
Schrepf,
1984; Stevenson, 1991; Stevenson & Black, 1988), and of female as
compared to male elcmentarv' teachers (Gold & Reis, 1982), As regards close
relationships, measures of male role identity are frequently found not to be
associated in the ways predicted with heterosexual adjustment, negative attitudes
toward women, and homosexuality (Pleck, 1981).
In addition, some of the latter characteristics themselves are viewed differ-
ently now than they were during the heyday of male identity theory. For example,
in a case study illustrating the association between secure male identity and
positive heterosexual adjustment, Kagan and Moss present a male who reported
that "there weren't many girls I took out on a premeditated date that 1 didn't
know 1 could lay before
1
took them out" (p. 159). Although Kagan and Moss
interpreted this as positive heterosexual adjustment, many today would not. As
another example, mental health professionals no longer interpret homosexuality
as inherently pathological.
Masculine Gender-Related Personality Traits
A more recent theoretical approach to the male role views it as a constella-
tion of traits that are more frequent or occur at higher levels in males, i.e., as
masculine gender-related personality traits. This concept is operationalized by
the masculinity subscales in measures such as the Bem (1974) Sex Role Inven-
tory (BSRl) and Spence and Helmreich's (1978) Personal Attributes Question-
naire (PAQ), Lenney's (1991) recent review uses "gender role orientation" as the
generic term for the construct assessed by these measures. However, Spence
(1992;
cf. Spence,
Losoff,
& Robbins, 1991) argues that a more descriptive,
theoretically neutral label is preferable. This approach is conceptually inter-
twined with the male identity perspective, and both share a common intellectual
14 Pleck, Sonenstein, and Ku
progenitor, the line of research on masculinity-femininity (or "M-F") initiated
by Terman and Miles (1936). There are three key differences, however. First,
gender-related trait research conceptualizes masculinity (M) and femininity (F)
as independent unipolar dimensions. Second, the gender-related trait approach
hypothesizes that masculine personality characteristics may have negative corre-
lates,
whereas male identity theory held that secure masculine identity had only
positive correlates. Third, a central component of male identity theory was its
view of identification as the primary mechanism for the acquisition of gender
role identity. By contrast, current research on masculine gender role orientation
gives relatively little emphasis on its acquisition.
In this new research, the male gender role has in effect been investigated by
analyzing the correlates of masculine gender-related traits (M) in male samples.
Several studies suggest that masculinity by itself has negative implications for
close relationships. Bem (1975) demonstrated that males high in masculinity and
low in femininity showed less nurturance toward a needy other in an experimen-
tal situation. In a college sample, Thompson (1990) found that the BSRI M scale
was positively associated with males' reports of committing physical aggression
in dating relationships. The Extended Personal Attributes Questionnaire (EPAQ)
further differentiates positive and negative components within M: M+ (e.g.,
achieving, responsible) and M (e.g., aggressive, exploitative; Spence, Helm-
reich, & Holahan, 1979). Although M has not been used in research on close
relationships, Mosher and Sirkin's (1984) Hypermasculinity Inventory, which
can be interpreted as assessing a similar trait dimension, is empirically associated
with measures of hostile-dominant style in interpersonal and dating situations,
and proclivity to rape and aggressive sexual behavior (Mosher, 1991). Several
studies suggest that feminine and androgynous persons are more expressive,
loving, and have more positive beliefs about their relationships than masculine
(and undifferentiated) individuals (Bailey, Hendrick, & Hendrick, 1987; Cole-
man & Ganong, 1985; Kurdek & Schmitt, 1986; Rusbult, Zembrodt, &
Iwaniskzek, 1986).
Masculinity Ideology: A New Perspective
The masculinity ideology approach is compatible with research on mas-
culine gender-related traits, but conceptualizes the male gender role in a different
way. This new approach is derived from the "social constructionist" approach to
gender (Kimmel & Messner, 1989) as well as from the "gender role strain"
jjerspective (Pleck, Sonenstein, & Ku, 1993b). Masculinity is viewed as a cultur-
al construction, rather than a psychologically (or biologically) based characteris-
tic.
As applied to men's behavior in close relationships, the idea is that males act
in the ways they do not because of their male role identity, or their level of
Masculinity Ideolog)' 15
masculine traits, but because of the conception of masculinity they internalize
from their culture. That is, their society's definition of masculinity may entail a
variety of characteristics influencing close relationships either negatively (such
as,
according to some analyses, sexual aggression, low self-disclosure, and need
for dominance) or positively (breadwinning responsibility)-
Using the social constructionist approach in quantitative research requires a
concept that describes the individual male's acceptance or internalization of his
society's defmition of masculinity. We propose masculiniry ideology as the nec-
essary linking construct. The social constructionist approach thus views mas-
culinity not as a dimension of personality in the trait sense, but as an ideology, a
set of beliefs and expectations about what men are like and should do. Mas-
culinity ideology is assessed by measures of attitudes about the male gender role,
i.e,, beliefs about the importance of men adhering to culturally defined standards
for male behavior,
Hypotke.ses
Theoretical analyses of the male gender role and past research provide a
basis for hypotheses about the association between masculinity ideology and
males'
behavior and attitudes in close relationships. Theoretical analyses imply
that the male gender role limits and shapes men's behavior in close relationships.
These analyses generally postulate that the male role is defmed by several dimen-
sions or themes, one or more of which constrains interpersonal relationships. For
example, in Brannon's (1976) well-known conceptualization of four themes
defining the male gender role, the "sturdy oak" dimension concerns limitation of
emotional expression and involvement, Pleck (1976) likewise theorizes that sup-
pression of affect in relationships is a cardinal male role requirement. Cicone and
Ruble's (1978) synthesis of empirical research on stereotypes and beliefs about
males concluded that one of the three categories of traits most often described as
characteristic of males is "how he handles others (dominant)," an attribute with
obvious impact on relationships.
Other analyses and research have focused on male heterosexual relation-
ships more specifically. Gross's (1978) theoretical analysis argued that sex is
more central for men and that males tend to isolate sex from intimacy. Consistent
with these generalizations, Peplau, Rubin, and Hill (1977) found that male
college students rate sex more important as a goal in dating than do females, and
are less likely to cite lack of emotional commitment as a reason for abstaining
from sex. This study also found that loss of virginity by a man was iess closely
linked to his love and commitment toward his partner than was loss of virginity
by a woman. Men currently with a partner with whom they lost their virginity did
not report more love and commitment with that partner than did other men about
16 Pleck, Sonenstein, and Ku
their partners; women in the same comparison did. Research has also shown that
men know less about contraception and take less responsibility for contraception
than do women (Hewson, 1986; Hofferth, 1987).
In previous research on attitudes toward the male gender role, Thompson,
Grisanti, and Pleck (1985) observed that endorsement of traditional attitudes
toward masculinity is associated with males reporting more power and lower
self-disclosure with their heterosexual dating partners. Men with traditional be-
liefs about male sexuality, one component of attitudes toward masculinity in
general, report using unilateral power and avoidance strategies in their intimate
relationships (Snell, Hawkins, & Belk, 1988). Among sexually active males,
those holding traditional attitudes about masculinity said they were less likely to
use a condom with a hypothetical future partner (Pleck, Sonenstein, & Ku,
1990).
Ma.sculinity attitudes also predict males' use of psychological violence in
dating relationships (Thompson, 1990) and endorsement of myths about rape
(Bunting & Reeves, 1983). The contribution of these studies is their demonstra-
tion that particular male behaviors can be a function of males' beliefs about
masculinity, as opposed to males' possessing masculine gender role orientation
or traits as other research has investigated.
The present study hypothesizes that among adolescent males, traditional
masculinity ideology is associated with (1) lower intimacy in heterosexual rela-
tionships (as reflected by more partners in the last year, lower involvement with
the current partner) and adversarial sexual beliefs, (2) less consistent use of
condoms, and (3) more negative attitudes about condoms and male responsibility
for contraception. Hypothesis One is based on theoreti^cal analyses and data
concerning the centrality of sex and the relative isolation of sex from intimacy in
the male role, and theoretical arguments that male role norms limit emotional
expression and involvement. Hypotheses Two and Three are suggested by previ-
ous research on male contraceptive responsibility, and Pleck et al.'s fmdings
about intended condom use. Additional analyses will examine how the correlates
of masculinity ideology may vary in different racial-ethnic groups, and how
attitudes about condoms may mediate the effects of masculinity ideology on
consistent condom use.
Assessment and Interpretive Issues
Several issues concerning masculinity ideology and its assessment should
be briefiy addressed before proceeding. First, is masculinity ideology indepen-
dent of masculine gender-related traits? Previous studies suggest that attitudes
about masculinity are relatively unrelated to masculine and feminine traits, as
assessed by the BSRI and PAQ (Downs & Engleson, 1982; Snell, Belk, &
Hawkins, 1986; Thompson, 1990; see detailed review in Thompson, Pleck, &
Ferrera, 1992). This finding is consistent with other research and theory holding
Masculinity Ideolog}' 17
that gender-related attitudes and gender-related traits are independent (Archer,
1989.
1990),
Second, are attitudes toward masculinity conceptually and empirically dis-
tinct from attitudes toward women? Pleck (1981) argues that the two attitudes are
theoretically independent. For example, an individual can hold a liberal attitude
toward women (e.g., believing that wives' employment is acceptable) while
simultaneously holding a conservative attitude toward masculinity (e.g., viewing
boys'
playing with dolls as unacceptable). Pleck recommends that to assess
masculinity attitudes independently of attitudes toward women, questionnaire
items should focus on the impwrtance of men conforming to male gender role
expectations (e.g,, "A young man should be physically tough, even if he is not
big").
Pleck, Sonenstein, and Ku (1993a) reviewed past research fmding within-
sex correlations of .44-.55 between measures of male role attitudes, assessed as
noted above, and Spence, Helmreich. and Stapp's (1973) Attitudes toward Wom-
en Scale (AWS). However, the AWS includes many items (15 of 25) explicitly
comparing the sexes (e.g., '"Swearing and obscenity are more repulsive in the
speech of a woman than of a man"; "It is ridiculous for a woman to run a
locomotive and for a man to dam socks"). Pleck et al. argue that such items
assess beliefs about the behavior appropriate to both sexes simultaneously, rather
than attitudes about women in the narrower sense of beliefs only about the
importance of women adhering to traditional expectations. Pleck et al. found in
their own multivariate analyses that, as hypothesized, attitudes toward the male
gender role were uncorrelatcd with a measure of attitudes toward women, but
were positively associated with a measure of attitudes about gender roles and
relationships. As further hypothesized, male role attitudes, but neither attitudes
toward women nor attitudes toward gender roles and relationships, predicted
negative attitudes toward male homosexuality. These findings suggest that the
construct of attitudes about male gender roles has discriminant validity relative to
attitudes about women, and relative to attitudes toward gender roles and relation-
ships.
Third, do measures of attitudes toward male gender roles assume the exis-
tence of a single standard for masculinity equally valid among all social groups
or subcultures? We believe not. Theoretical analyses have argued that male role
expectations include several different dimensions whose relative salience may
vary among individuals and social groups (e.g., Brannon, 1976), Male role
attitude measures do not assume that the content of each scale item is part of
every subculture's definition of appropriate male behavior. Use of these measures
does assume, however, that their items encompass a range of characteristics
potentially included in definitions of masculinity in major U.S, subcultures.
Researchers employing them can check the assumption that these measures as-
sess male role attitudes with equal validity among different social groups by em-
pirically determining whether they have the same correlates in different samples.
18 neck, Sonenstein, and Ku
Finally, is it appropriate, or a negative value judgment, to interpret one pole
of the attitudinal dimension assessed by these measures as a "traditional" attitude
toward masculinity? Theoretical analyses have asserted that the male gender role
is characterized by a set of expectations for male behavior, and that in recent
years these expectations are changing (Brannon, 1976; Pleck, 1976). As used
here,
traditional attitudes toward male gender roles is meant simply to refer to the
attitudes endorsing the expectations identified in these theoretical analyses, with-
out implying a negative value judgment. Based on prior theory and research, the
study hypothesizes that these attitudes are associated with characteristics of
males'
heterosexual relationships and contraceptive behavior, and subjects these
hypotheses to empirical test.
Method
Sample
The National Survey of Adolescent Males (NSAM) included 1880 never-
married males aged 15-19 between April and November 1988. Its sample repre-
sents the noninstitutionalized never-married male population ages 15-19 in the
contiguous United States. The sample was stratified to overrepresent Black and
Hispanic respondents, and in-person interviews averaging 75 minutes were com-
pleted with 676 young. Black, non-Hispanic nnen, 386 young Hispanic men, 755
young, white, non-Hispanic men, and 63 respondents in other racial groupings.
The response rate for those eligible to be interviewed was 73.9%. For other
information on the sample, design, and procedures, see Sonenstein, Pleck, and
Ku (1989). The primary analysis uses the subsample of 1069 sexually active
males with complete data on all measures.
Mea.sures
Male Role Attitudes. This construct was assessed by an
8-item
Male Role
Attitudes Scale (MRAS). Seven items were adapted from Thomp)son and Pleck's
(1986) Male Role Norms Scale (MRNS), a 26-item abbreviated version of the
Brannon Masculinity Scale, Short Form (Brannon, 1985). MRAS items were
chosen to represent the three factorial dimensions of the MRNS: status (3 items),
toughness (2), and antifemininity (2). Items considered most relevant to an
adolescent sample were selected, and wording was simplified or otherwise al-
tered to be more appropriate for this age group. An additional item specifically
about sex, a topical area absent from the MRNS, was also included (Snell et al.,
1986).
Although 6 of the 8 items focus exclusively on men in relation to male
role standards, 1 item explicitly concerns the husband-wife relationship, and
another, concerning husbands' responsibility Jor housework, implies this rela-
tionship.
Masculinity Ideolog)' 19
An index was derived from the 8 items, with a coefficient alpha of ,56.
Analyses showed that all items contributed to the index, and that omission of any
items would not lead to improvement in reliability. Alphas among Whites,
Blacks, and Hispanics were .61, .47, and .54. While this level of internal
reliability is less than ideal, it was considered adequate for use in further analy-
sis.
Thompson (1990) reported a coefficient alpha of .91 in a college sample for
the 26-item scale from which most of the 8 items used in the present study were
adapted. The lower reliability found in the present study results from the smaller
number of items used.
Intimacy in Heterosexual
Relationships.
Several dependent variables related
to intimacy were used. Respondents reported how many different partners with
whom they had engaged in sexual intercourse during the last 12 months. For the
most recent partner with whom they had engaged in intercourse, respondents
reported the kind of relationship they had with that partner at last intercourse (had
just met her, just friends, going out with her once in a while, going with her or
going steady, or engaged to her, coded 1-5), and also reported how long they had
this relationship with her. As a measure of relationship attitudes suggesting low
intimacy in heterosexual relationships, 3 items were taken from Burt's (1980)
scale for adversarial sexual beliefs, the belief that relationships between men and
women are inherently adversarial (e.g., "In a dating relationship, a girl is largely
out to take advantage of a guy"). Alpha for the 3-item scale was .57.
Consistency of Condom Use with Last Partner. Respondents who had a
sexual partner in the last year, and had intercourse twice or more with her, were
asked what percentage of the time they used a condom when having sex with that
partner. This variable could not meaningfully be operationalized for those who
had sex only once with their last partner (Pleck, Sonenstein, & Ku, 1991).
Attitudes About Condoms and Male Responsibility for Contraception. To
assess attitudes about condoms, respondents were presented various conse-
quences of condom use (e.g., "if you used a condom, you would feel less
pleasure"). Males rated the likelihood of each, and how much it would "matter"
to them if the consequence occurred. For each consequence, the product of the
likelihood and evaluation ratings was calculated, representing the male's degree
of concern about that aspect of condom use. Three aspects of attitudes toward
condoms are used in this analysis: condom interference with male pleasure (item
above),
partner appreciation of condom use ['"if you used a condom, she (a
hypothetical future partner) would appreciate
that"],
and condom embarrassment
(a 5-item index involving embarrassment when buying, discussing, and putting
on condoms; the partner getting upset if the male has a condom ready; and losing
erection when putting on a condom). The condom embarrassment index had a
coefficient alpha of .68.
20 Pleck, Sonenstein, and Ku
A 5-item scale was develop)ed to assess the belief that males have respon-
sibility for contraception and prevention of pregnancy. Responsibility was con-
ceptualized more broadly than simply using a condom to include communicating
with the partner about contraception (e.g.. "Before a young man has sexual
intercourse with someone, he should know or ask whether she is using contracep-
tion").
The male contraceptive responsibility index had a coefficient alpha of .55.
For exact wording and other information on the condom attitude measures and
the contraceptive responsibility scale, see Pleck et al. (1990). Finally, to assess
the belief that pregnancy validates a male's ma.sculinity, respondents were asked,
"If you got a girl pregnant now, how much would that make you feel like a real
man?"
(a lot, somewhat, a little, or not at all).
Attitude Toward Gender Roles and Relationships. Gender role attitude, a
more global construct than attitude toward the male role, was assessed by the
item, "It is much better for everyone if the man earns the money and the woman
takes care of the home and family." Mason and Bumpass (1975; Mason, Czajka,
& Arber, 1976) identified this item as the one best reflecting "core gender
ideology" in their analyses of gender-related items in five national surveys. In its
explicit comparison of the sexes, this item is similar to those in Spence et al.'s
(1973) AWS and other widely used scales for gender-related attitudes.
Sociodemographic and Personal Background
Variables.
In addition to cur-
rent age, respondents reported the level of education they thought they would
ever complete (collapsed to less than high school diploma, high school diploma,
some college or vocational school, four years of college, postgraduate). Atten-
dance at religious services at age 14 was reported in four categories: never, less
than once a month, one to three times a month, and once a week or more. Race
was coded as White non-Hispanic, Black non-Hispanic, Hispanic, and other
race.
In regression analyses, all but the first were entered as dummy variables,
with White non-Hispanic the omitted group (Cohen & Cohen, 1975). Respon-
dents estimated their family annual income in one of seven categories (in thou-
sands:
0-10, 10-20, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60, and 60 +; coded 1-7).
Region of the country was coded as the four Census regions (North, Midwest,
West, and South), represented as dummy variables, with South the omitted
group.
Results
Distributions of the Male Role Attitude Items and Index
Table
1
provides the means and standard deviations for the 8 items assessing
male role attitudes. Item distributions may vary not only because of true differ-
ences in the rate of endorsement of one aspect of traditional male role exp)ecta-
Masculinity Ideology 21
Table
Item
1.
Means andStandardDeviations ot Traditional.S4aleRole.Attitude Itetns
Mean"
andIndex
SD
3.23
3.30
1.76
2.63
3.33
!.72
2.13
2.80
.80
.71
79
.K7
1.03
.y2
.88
.%
.44
1.
It is essential for a guy to get respect from others.
2.
A man always deserves the re.spect of his wife and children
3.
I admire a guy who is totally sure of himself.
4.
A guy will lose respect if he talks about his problems.
5.
A young man should be physically tough, even if he's not big.
6. It bothers me when a gu> acts like a girl.
7.
1
don't think a husband should have to do housework.
8. Men are always ready for sex.
Traditional male role attitudes index
No!e.
Weighted ,V"s for items = 1868-1877; weighted iV for index = 18.^11
"Range:
1-4, anchored at four agree a lot.
tions compared to another, but also because item wordings may not be equivalent
in intensity; because of the latter possibility, differences in means should be
interpreted with caution. With this caveat, males reported strong endorsement of
male role expectations concerning being respected by others, self-confidence,
and avoidance of overt femininity (Items 1-3 and 6). By contrast, mean endorse-
ment for items concerning physical toughness and sexual interest (5 and 8) was
close to the theoretical midpoint of 2.5. These 2 items also showed the largest
standard deviations. Finally, respondents tended on the average to disagree with
the items assessing male role expectations regarding not expressing weakness (4)
and not doing housework (7).
Associations between Male Role Attitudes and Other Variables
Table 2 presents the results of multiple regression analyses of association
between male role attitudes and measures related to intimacy, condom use,
attitudes about condoms and male contraceptive responsibility, and coercive sex.
Predictors in the primary regression analysis (Model 1) are male role attitudes
and the following control variables: current age, expected completed level of
education, church attendance at age 14, race, family income, and region of the
country. All predictors were entered simultaneously. For this model. Table 2
shows only the regression coefficient for the effect of male role attitudes on the
outcome measures. Male role attitudes are significantly related to eight of the ten
potential correlates considered here. Compared to those with nontraditional atti-
tudes,
a male with a more traditional conception of manhood reported more
sexual partners in the last year, reported a less intimate relationship at last
intercourse with his most recent partner, viewed relationships between women
and men as more adversarial, used condoms less consistently with his current
partner, viewed condoms more negatively as reducing male sexual pleasure, was
less concerned with whether a partner wanted him to use a condom, believed less
22Pleck, Sonenstein, and Ku
Table 2, Association Between Male Role Attitudes Index (Independent Variable) and Intimacy
and Contraceptive Measures (Dependent Variables) (A' = 1069)
Dependent variable
Number of sexual partners in last year
Length of cunent relationship
Intimacy of current relationship
.Adversarial sexual beliefs
Consistency of condom use with cur-
rent partner"
Concern about condom interference
with pleasure
Concern about condom enabarrass-
ment
Valuing partner appreciation of con-
dom use
Belief in male contraceptive respon-
sibility
Belief that pregnancy validates mas-
culinity
Model 1
Beta:
Male
attitude
095**
-.015
-.058*
.365***
-.115***
.164***
.042
-.106***
-.101**
.193***
Beta:
Gender
attitude
-.021
.004
-.038
.176***
.003
-.010
.074*
-.040
-.016
.089**
Model 2
Beta:
Male
attitude
.098**
-.019
-.048
.299***
-.116**
.163***
.015
-.093**
-.093**
.161***
Unique
variance:
Male attitude
,0067**
.0000
.0007
.0713***
.0023*
.0207***
.0000
.0061**
.0062**
.0202***
Note, The regression models also included current age. expected completed level of education,
church attendance at age 14, race, family income, and region of the country. For all variables, high
value denotes being high on the named construct.
"This analysis is restricted to those who had sex with their last partner more than once in the last year
(n = 799), the subsample in which consistency of condom use can be computed.
*p < .05, one-tailed test.
**p < .01.
***p < .001.
in male resfwnsibility for contraception, and believed more that making someone
pregnant would validate his masculinity.
Controlling for Attitude Toward Gender Roles and Relationships
The single-item measure of attitude toward gender roles and relationships is
modestly but significantly correlated with the male role attitude index (r = .129,
p < .001), In Model 2, the predictors include those in Model
1
plus gender role
attitude (all predictors entered simultaneously). Model 2 thus determines whether
the associations observed in Model
1
persist when gender role attitude is included
as a predictor, thus controlling for it. The inclusion of gender role attitude as a
predictor has little impact on the association between male role attitude and the
outcomes. Of the eight significant relationships observed in Model 1, seven
Masculinity Ideology 23
remain significant in Model 2. For two outcomes, gender role attitude exerts a
significant influence in addition to the effect of male role attitude: belief that
pregnancy validates masculinity and adversarial sexual beliefs. For only one
outcome did gender role attitude exhibit a significant association and male role
attitude did not: concern about embarrassment related to condom use.
In addition, the Model 2 panel of Table 2 shows the unique variance in the
outcomes attributable to male role attitude, i.e., the increment in the model's
adjusted R^ attributable to male role attitude. Unique variance for a predictor is
calculated by comparing adjusted R^'s in models with and without that predictor.
For several outcomes on which male role attitude has a significant effect, the
unique variance this predictor accounts for is small. In three instances, male role
attitude's unique variance is more substantial: adversarial sexual beliefs (7,1%),
concern about condoms interfering with male pleasure (2,1%), and belief that
pregnancy validates masculinity (2,0%),
To investigate whether the MRAS has similar associations with the outcome
measures in different racial-ethnic subgroups, interactions between male role
attitudes and race-ethnicity on the dependent measures were tested by adding
additional terms representing these interactions (MRAS x Black, MRAS x
Hispanic, MRAS x other race) to Model 1. For each outcome, a new model was
estimated, including the predictors in Model 1 plus interactions between mas-
culinity attitudes and race-ethnicity. Whether the model including the interaction
terms accounts for significantly greater variance than the model with only main
effects and background variables formally tests whether the association between
male role attitude and the outcomes varies among different subgroups. Since
statistical power is low in testing interactions, alpha was raised to
.
10 (Jaccard,
Turrisi, & Wan, 1990), A power analysis indicated that all analyses could detect,
with power of .80 or greater, race-ethnicity interactions accounting for incre-
ments in /?2 of ,0080 or greater. Even with this elevated alpha, the inclusion of
race-ethnic interactions did not lead to a significant increment in variance ex-
plained for any outcome. This adjusted R^ increments observed ranged from
.0000 to ,004i.
Pathways of Influence
Finally, one further analysis was conducted to follow up on the findings in
Table 2 that male role attitudes are associated with perceptions of condoms and
pregnancy, belief in male responsibility, and condom use. Prior research has
indicated that these perceptions of condoms and belief in male contraceptive
responsibility also predict consistency of condom use (Pleck et al., 1991), In
combination, these results suggest that attitudes toward masculinity may affect
condom use both directly, as well as by influencing attitudes about condoms,
pregnancy, and male responsibility, which in turn influence actual condom use.
Figure 1 presents the results of a path analysis testing this hypothetical model.
24Pleck, Snncnsteui, and Ku
Condom Interteres .
with Pleasure
Consistency ot
Condom Use with
Last Partner
Hg,
i. Path diagram: Relation of traditional male role attitudes, condom and contraceptive attitudes,
and con.sistency of condom u.se with current partner (A' = 799). Bold paths are significant at the .05
level.
The data are consistent with the model for three attitudes about condoms:
concern about condoms' interference with male pleasure, valuing partner appre-
ciation of condom use, and belief in male contraceptive responsibility. That is,
the negative effect of traditional male role attitudes on consistent condom use can
be interpreted as occurring both directly as well as via the influence of male
attitudes on these specific perceptions of condoms and male responsibility. Tradi-
tional masculinity values also influence males' views of pregnancy as validating
manhood, but these perceptions do not appear to have an independent influence
on condom use when the other predictors in the model are included.
Discussion
With numerous background and personal characteristics controlled, tradi-
tional attitudes toward masculinity are associated with having more sexual part-
ners in the last year, a less intimate relationship with the current sexual partner,
and greater belief that relationships between women and men are adversarial.
These traditional attitudes are also associated with less consistent use of con-
doms,
and with specific attitudes about condoms associated with low condom
use,
less belief in male responsibility to prevent pregnancy, and greater belief
that pregnancy validates masculinity.
These associations generally persist when a single-item measure of attitudes
toward gender roles and relationships, similar to items in the AWS, is included in
Masculinity Ideology 25
the analysis. Thus, male role attitudes show discriminant validity in predicting
the outcomes considered here. At the same time, two outcomes show significant
independent associations both with male role attitudes and with attitude toward
gender roles and relationships. These results suggest that future research on male
gender role behavior should consider the influence of both kinds of attitudes.
As noted earlier, other studies indicate that attitudes toward masculinity are
unrelated to masculine gender-related personality traits (M) as assessed by the
BSRl and PAQ. Thus, the associations found here are likely to be independent of
relationships existing between M and the outcomes, although the absence of a
measure of M in the present data precluded testing this directly, F*revious re-
search has found associations between M and relationship variables similar to
some of those employed here. It is thus likely that both attitudes toward mas-
culinity and masculine gender role orientation independently influence males'
relationship and contraceptive orientations, and future research should explore
this possibility.
If the conception of the male gender role implied by the MRAS concerned
only high level of sexual activity, the study's results would not be surprising, and
the study could be criticized as defining masculinity in a biased way, designed to
show it has negative correlates. However, the .MRAS actually includes a balance
of both negative and positive masculine attributes. Although one item concerns
males being highly sexually active, the remaining items define masculinity in
terms of a range of other attributes. Several items register high rates of endorse-
ment, suggesting they are positively valued among U.S, adolescent males (re-
sp)ect, self-confidence, and antifemininity; items 1-3 and 6). In other correla-
tional analyses, ever>' item showed significant associations with one or more
outcomes. Thus, our results suggest that it is not only a subset of traditional
attitudes about masculinity that have negative implications for intimacy and
contraception. Instead, these consequences are associated with a wider range of
attitudes about masculinity, including attitudes about expected male characteris-
tics that are endorsed at high levels by adolescent males.
Concerning racial-ethnic differences, the associations observed here be-
tween male role attitudes and the deptendent measures were not found to be
significantly different among White, Black, and Hispanic adolescent males.
Formal test of racial-ethnic differences in the association of the MRAS with the
relationship and contraceptive measures revealed no significant interaction ef-
fects.
Future re.search should continue to investigate possible differential validity
of male role attitudes within diverse population subgroups.
The study has several limitations. First, the associations observed here
cannot be interpreted as causal. Attitudes toward masculinity may be a result
rather than cause of the relationship and contraceptive characteristics investi-
gated here, or both may reflect common sources not controlled for in our an-
alyses. Second, although the age group investigated here is an important one. the
26 Pleck, Sonenstein, and Ku
study's findings should not be generalized to other age groups. Third, several key
measures have low reliabilities, and the data include only a single-item measure
of attitudes toward gender roles and relationships similar to items in the AWS,
and no measure of masculine gender role orientation. Thus, the study's assess-
ment of the discriminant validity of attitudes toward masculinity compared to
other gender-related attitudes is limited, and discriminant validity relative to
masculine gender role orientation could not be directiy evaluated.
With these limitations acknowledged, our results nonetheless suggest that
traditional masculinity ideology has correlates with negative implications for
adolescent males' level of intimacy in heterosexual relationships. Having more
sexual partners in the last year, and a less close relationship at last intercourse
suggests lower emotional investment in any one sexual relationship. The higher
level of adversarial sexual beliefs among males holding traditional attitudes also
suggests lower trust in heterosexual relationships. Further, males with traditional
attitudes are more concerned about condoms reducing their own sexual pleasure,
and less concerned whether their partner wants them to use a condom, a combi-
nation indicating that traditional males think more about themselves and less
about their partners.
Traditional attitudes toward masculinity also have negative correlates from a
public health perspective. Males with traditional attitudes have more sexual
partners, use condoms less, and have less favorable attitudes toward condoms.
They disagree that males have a responsibility to prevent pregnancy, and are
more likely to believe that making a partner pregnant validates their own mas-
culinity. The greater frequency of sexual partners, the lower usage of condoms,
and the contraceptive beliefs associated with traditional attitudes toward mas-
culinity increase adolescent males' risks of unintended pregnancy, AIDS, and
other sexually transmitted diseases.
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JOSEPH H. PLECK is Senior Research Associate at the Weliesley College
Center for Research on Women. His major books are The Myth of Masculinity
(1981),
The Impact of
Work
Schedules on the Family (1983), and
Working
Wives,
Working Husbands (1985). His research currently focuses on adolescent male
sexual and contraceptive behavior, and on fathers' use of parental leave (both
formal and informal) and other family-supportive employer policies.
EREYA LUND SONENSTEIN, a sociologist, is the Director of the Population
Studies Center at The Urban Institute in Washington, DC. Much of her research
has focused on family and children's policy issues. She is the author of several
Masculinity Ideolog}' 29
articles about adolescent pregnancy, child care, and child support. Formeriy she
was the codirector of the Family and Children's Policy Program at the Florence
Heller School, Brandeis University.
LEIGHTON KU is Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute and Associ-
ate Professorial Lecturer in Public Policy at George Washington University, His
current research interests include teenagers' HIV risk behaviors, Medicaid, and
nutrition assistance programs for children.
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