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Demystifying Men's Emotional Behavior: New Directions and Implications for Counseling and Research.



Using a tripartite framework focusing on the causes, modes, and consequences of men's emotional expression and nonexpression, this article provides a critical review of the theories and research relevant to men's emotional behavior. It is argued that current conceptualizations of male emotional behavior do not adequately capture its multidimensional nature and would be enriched through integration with theories and research from the science of emotion. Implications for counseling and suggestions for research are outlined. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Demystifying Men’s Emotional Behavior: New Directions and
Implications for Counseling and Research
Y. Joel Wong and Aaron B. Rochlen
University of Texas at Austin
Using a tripartite framework focusing on the causes, modes, and consequences of
men’s emotional expression and nonexpression, this article provides a critical review of
the theories and research relevant to men’s emotional behavior. It is argued that current
conceptualizations of male emotional behavior do not adequately capture its multidi-
mensional nature and would be enriched through integration with theories and research
from the science of emotion. Implications for counseling and suggestions for research
are outlined.
In the last 20 years, men’s alleged difficulty
in expressing emotions has been one of the most
frequently discussed but controversial topics in
the study of masculinity. Emotional inexpres-
siveness has been described as a pervasive prob-
lem among men, particularly when compared
with women (see, e.g., Balswick, 1988; Brooks,
1998; Moore & Haverkamp, 1989; Pollack &
Levant, 1998; Scher, 1981). The prevailing ex-
planation for men’s emotional inexpressiveness
has been the gender-role socialization paradigm
(Balswick, 1988; Good & Sherrod, 2001; Meth
& Passick, 1990; O’Neil, 1981). According to
this perspective, boys and men internalize cul-
tural messages about what it means to be male.
Included in these messages is the sentiment that
being emotionally expressive is an indication of
femininity and weakness and should thus be
avoided or minimized (O’Neil, Good, &
Holmes, 1995).
More recently, the view that men are emo-
tionally inexpressive compared with women has
been challenged (Heesacker et al., 1999;
Wester, Vogel, Pressly, & Heesacker, 2002). In
a seminal article, Wester et al. (2002) reviewed
the empirical evidence on sex differences in
emotionality and concluded that men’s and
women’s emotional behaviors are more similar
than different. Moreover, when differences do
emerge, they tend to be small, inconsistent, and
limited to specific situational contexts.
The above discussion on the assumed preva-
lence of men’s emotional inexpressiveness
highlights the complexities involved in under-
standing men’s emotional behavior. The con-
ceptualization of this behavior may not be easily
reducible to a set of generalizations (e.g., that
men are less expressive than women). In this
article, a tripartite framework that focuses on
the causes, modes, and consequences of emo-
tional expression and nonexpression is used.
The central thesis in this article is that, like
other aspects of masculinity (Addis & Mahalik,
2003), men’s emotional behavior is not a stable
property but a multidimensional construct with
many causes, modes, and consequences. This
review discusses the possible reasons why men
do not express their emotions, the varied modes
through which men express their emotions, and
whether and when men’s emotional behavior is
considered healthy. In addition, as emotion and
emotion-related processes are important issues
in therapy (Greenberg, 2002; Wester et al.,
2002), attention is devoted to the review’s clin-
ical implications. Finally, recommendations for
future research are suggested.
Before continuing, it is important to clarify
the use of certain terms in this article. Kennedy-
Moore and Watson’s (1999) definitions of emo-
tional behavior and emotional expression are
adopted. Emotional behavior is defined as
Y. Joel Wong and Aaron B. Rochlen, Department of
Educational Psychology, University of Texas at Austin.
We are grateful to Lee Land, Ryan McKelley, and Mar-
garet Whilde for providing thoughtful feedback on earlier
versions of this article.
Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-
dressed to Y. Joel Wong, Department of Educational Psy-
chology, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station
D5800, Austin, TX 78712. E-mail: joelwong@mail
Psychology of Men & Masculinity Copyright 2005 by the Educational Publishing Foundation
2005, Vol. 6, No. 1, 62–72 1524-9220/05/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/1524-9220.6.1.62
“emotional expression or non-expression,”
whereas emotional expression refers to “observ-
able verbal and nonverbal behaviors that com-
municate and/or symbolize emotional experi-
ence” (Kennedy-Moore & Watson, 1999, p.
Causes of Emotional Inexpressiveness
Are Men Unable or Unwilling to Express
Their Emotions?
A common explanation for male emotional
inexpressiveness is that men are unable to ex-
press their emotions. This inability is typically
attributed to a lack of awareness of emotion (see
Brooks & Gilbert, 1995; Heppner & Gonzales,
1987; Levant, 1998; Pleck, 1984; Scher, 1981;
Silverberg, 1986). Silverberg (1986, p. 39)
commented that “men have been so conditioned
not to feel anything that they are totally unaware
of what they are experiencing.” In the same
vein, Levant (1998) labeled this phenomenon
“normative male alexithymia” and suggested
the phenomenon is widespread among men.
Alternative perspectives on men’s emotional
inexpressiveness have been advanced. Wester et
al. (2002) cast doubts on the view that alexithy-
mia is a pervasive problem among men com-
pared with women. Balswick (1988) was one of
the first writers to suggest that male role social-
ization might result in men thinking they are not
supposed to be expressive rather than men hav-
ing an inability to be expressive. In a study on
male emotional inexpressiveness and alexityh-
mia, Fischer and Good (1997) provided empir-
ical support for this latter perspective, with find-
ings indicating that men’s emotional inexpres-
siveness was a better predictor of their
willingness to describe their emotions than the
extent to which they can identify what they feel.
They concluded that the degree to which men
have internalized traditional masculine gender
roles may tell us more about their willingness to
express their emotions than their ability to iden-
tify their emotions.
Process Model of Emotional Expression
and Nonexpression
It appears that these two perspectives are not
necessarily contradictory. Rather than repre-
senting a dichotomy, being unaware of one’s
emotions and being unwilling to disclose one’s
feelings are posited here as two of a variety of
possible causes for some men’s inexpressive-
ness. To explore the possible reasons why some
men are emotionally inexpressive, we consider
the process model of emotional expression
and nonexpression proposed by Kennedy-
Moore and Watson (1999). This model explains
how covert emotional experience is translated
into overt emotional expression through a five-
step cognitive-evaluative process, as well as
how disruptions at each step of the process
lead to nonexpression of emotions. This model
was not constructed specifically with men in
mind, and, at present, it lacks empirical sup-
port. Nevertheless, the model provides a pre-
liminary and promising heuristic for under-
standing the multiple causes for male emotional
Step 1: Prereflective reaction. A potentially
emotion-provoking stimulus activates a primary
affective state and an accompanying physiolog-
ical arousal in a person. This process is usually
preconscious and automatic. For instance, a
man who is told by his boss that he is going to
be laid off might react with affective arousal
and his heart might beat faster. Men differ in the
strength of their emotional reactions to the same
stressors. Some men might have a high thresh-
old for emotional activation and have a limited
prereflective reaction. In such a situation, no
emotion is generated, and, thus, no expression
Step 2: Awareness of affective response. If
a stimulus triggers a basic affective state in a
person, he or she typically becomes consciously
aware of this experience. However, because
some men are motivated to repress their nega-
tive and vulnerable emotions (e.g., feelings of
fear or tenderness), they become unaware of
what they feel. They convince themselves that
they are not experiencing feelings and therefore
do not express them.
Step 3: Labeling and interpretation of re-
sponse. If a person is consciously aware of an
affective state, the person attempts to label and
interpret the emotion (e.g., “I feel jealous”). A
disruption at this stage of the process model is
associated with alexithymia, a deficit in pro-
cessing and regulating emotional states through
the use of cognitive mechanisms (Lumley,
Tojek, & Macklem, 2002). Some men have
difficulty identifying and describing what they
feel and are thus unable to express their
Step 4: Evaluation of response as acceptable.
Once a person is able to identify his or her
emotions, the emotions are evaluated in light of
the person’s beliefs and values to determine
whether they are acceptable. Some men’s back-
grounds or developmental histories have taught
them to evaluate certain emotions as negative.
For example, some men believe that it is unac-
ceptable to feel fearful and are thus less likely to
express feelings of fear.
Step 5: Perceived social context for expres-
sion. Finally, even if a person believes his or
her feelings are acceptable, he or she might
perceive the immediate social context as dis-
couraging their expression. Some men, for in-
stance, believe that it is inappropriate to express
vulnerable feelings to people they do not know
well or to persons of authority and thus suppress
the expression of their emotions.
In recent years, scholars have argued that it is
important for clinicians to attend closely to how
gender-role socialization influences male psy-
chotherapy clients’ emotional behavior (see,
e.g., Brooks, 1998; Mahalik, 1999; Mahalik,
Good, & Englar-Carlson, 2003). The process
model of emotional expression and nonexpres-
sion represents a promising model for under-
standing the diverse ways in which gender-role
socialization influences men’s emotional behav-
ior. Men are socialized to express emotion in
different ways. Some men repress their feelings
(disruption at Step 2), others cannot identify
what they feel (disruption at Step 3), still others
are uncomfortable with their negative feelings
(disruption at Step 4), or they perceive that they
have limited social opportunities to express
their emotions (disruption at Step 5). It is also
possible that some men are emotionally inex-
pressive for different reasons at different times.
Modes of Emotional Expression
The modes through which men express their
emotions are also varied and worthy of consid-
eration. Emotions can be expressed verbally,
nonverbally (e.g., in writing), linguistically (i.e.,
using language), and through physiological
means (e.g., facial expressions and body move-
ments). The discussion here is confined to
men’s verbal and nonverbal linguistic modes of
expression. Physiological modes are of less in-
terest because evidence suggests that the ex-
pression of emotions through physiological
means (e.g., body movement) does not result in
health improvements; such gains appear to re-
quire the translation of emotional experience
into language (Krantz & Pennebaker, 1997;
Pennebaker, 1997a).
Three studies shed important light on the
different modes men use to express emotion.
Moore and Haverkamp (1989) conducted a
posttest-only psychoeducational intervention
targeted at increasing men’s emotional expres-
siveness. Men in the experimental group were
more expressive than those in the control group,
as measured by their verbal responses to 10
videotaped stimulus vignettes. However, men in
the experimental and control groups did not
differ in their self-reported levels of expression,
as measured by a written questionnaire that
asked men the extent to which they express four
primary emotions. The authors attributed this
finding to men’s overestimation of the degree to
which they actually express feelings. An alter-
native interpretation is that men are generally
more willing to report emotions nonverbally
rather than verbally.
In another study, Robertson and his col-
leagues (Robertson, Woodford, Lin, Danos, &
Hurst, 2001) found that men with greater gen-
der-role stress expressed more emotion using a
structured paper-and-pencil measure of emo-
tional expressiveness than did men with less
gender-role stress. The structured measure, the
Emotional Assessment Scale, asked participants
to describe the intensity of various emotions
they experienced by drawing a slash on a
100-mm line. In contrast, men with less gender-
role stress were more emotionally expressive
when asked to respond verbally to a video they
watched than men with greater gender-role
Finally, in a recent study on men’s evalua-
tions of different modalities and approaches to
counseling (Rochlen, Land, & Wong, 2004),
men reviewed face-to-face and online counsel-
ing vignettes. Men with high levels of restric-
tive emotionality reported less favorable evalu-
ations of face-to-face counseling but roughly
equal evaluations of online counseling, com-
pared with men with low levels of restrictive
emotionality. Although this study did not exam-
ine men’s emotional expression during therapy,
it does suggest that men with varying degrees of
restrictive emotionality have differing levels of
responses to different modes of therapy. It is
possible that the perceived anonymity of online
counseling would reduce some men’s fears of
negative self-appraisal, which in turn may en-
courage disinhibition during therapy (Cook &
Doyle, 2002).
The above studies suggest that men might
vary in their levels of emotional expressiveness,
depending on the mode of expression available
to them. This possibility implies that attending
more closely to the role of the contextual factors
surrounding emotional expression might help
account for the frequent observation that men
have difficulties expressing emotions in therapy
(see, e.g., Brooks, 1998, Robertson, 2001;
Scher, 1981; Silverberg, 1986). Traditional
counseling typically involves verbal face-to-
face contact. However, men who adhere to tra-
ditional gender-role norms tend to be less will-
ing to disclose their emotions verbally (Robert-
son et al., 2001) and might have less favorable
evaluations of face-to-face counseling com-
pared with online counseling (Rochlen et al.,
2004). Nevertheless, the above studies suggest
that outside the context of traditional counsel-
ing, there appears to be considerable within-
group and across-situation variability in men’s
willingness to express their feelings.
Consequences of Men’s Emotional
The issue of whether and how men’s emo-
tional behaviors influence their psychological
and physical health is complex, with many un-
answered questions. The discussion in this sec-
tion begins with a review of the literature on the
health consequences of men’s emotional behav-
iors, followed by a survey of relevant theories
and empirical evidence from the science of
Literature on Male Emotional
In the last 20 years, the literature on male
emotional inexpressiveness has primarily em-
phasized negative consequences (see e.g.,
Balswick, 1988; Brooks, 1998; Levant, 1998;
O’ Neil, 1981; Robertson, 2001; Silverberg,
1986). Traditional men’s difficulties with ex-
pressing emotions have been described as
among the most notable of their problems
(Brooks, 1998). A corollary view in the litera-
ture is that it is healthy for men to express
emotions and men should therefore be taught to
be more emotionally expressive (e.g., Levant,
1998; Moore & Havercamp, 1989; Robertson &
Freeman 1995).
An impressive body of research on the neg-
ative outcomes associated with male emotional
inexpressiveness has emerged, primarily using
the restrictive emotionality dimension of the
Gender Role Conflict Scale developed by
O’Neil, Helms, Gable, Davis, and Wrightsman
(1986). Male restrictive emotionality has been
found to be related to low self-esteem
(Cournoyer, 1994), difficulties with relationship
intimacy (Sharpe & Heppner, 1991), marital
dissatisfaction (Sharpe, 1993), anxiety (Cour-
noyer, 1994), depression (Sharpe & Heppner,
1991), a negative view of help seeking (Robert-
son & Fitzgerald, 1992), attaching more stigma
to career counseling (Rochlen & O’Brien,
2002), and an increased similarity in personality
style to chemical abusers (Blazina & Watkins,
Although evidence is growing on the delete-
rious outcomes related to male restrictive emo-
tionality, three issues are in need of further
research attention. First, important questions
have been raised about whether inexpressive-
ness, in and of itself, is problematic for men or
whether other factors are negotiating the influ-
ence on psychological and physiological out-
comes. In a study examining the relationships
among masculine gender role, personality, and
counseling-related variables (Tokar, Fischer,
Schaub, & Moradi, 2000), personality variables
were found to mediate the relationship between
restrictive emotionality and eight out of nine
counseling-related variables. The authors con-
cluded that most of the links between gender-
role conflict and counseling-related variables
are best conceptualized as indirect and occur-
ring through personality.
Second, the overwhelming majority of re-
search in this area has emerged from using the
Restrictive Emotionality Scale, a subscale of the
Gender Role Conflict Scale (O’Neil et al.,
1986). Restrictive emotionality focuses on the
negative consequences of socialized gender
roles on an individual or on others (O’Neil et
al., 1995). Mahalik and his colleagues (Ma-
halik, Locke, et al., 2003) have commented that
the Gender Role Conflict Scale emphasizes pa-
thology related to masculinity rather than con-
formity to gender-role norms per se. Hence, it is
not surprising that restrictive emotionality has
been found to be associated with negative out-
comes. The research on restrictive emotionality
provides strong evidence of possible dangers
associated with male emotional inexpressive-
ness, but it might not demonstrate conclusively
that adherence to gender-role norms for men’s
emotional behavior in and of itself leads to
negative outcomes.
Third, there is insufficient theorizing and re-
search on whether and how emotional inexpres-
siveness is adaptive for men (Heesacker & Pri-
chard, 1992; Mahalik, Good, & Englar-Carlson,
2003; Wester et al., 2002). In addition, little is
known about whether and how nonconformity
to masculine gender-role norms (e.g., being
emotionally expressive) might lead to social
stress (Mahalik, Locke, et al., 2003). The ques-
tion of whether it is beneficial to express or not
express one’s emotions remains mired in con-
troversy, as the following section demonstrates
(Bonanno, 2001).
Theories and Empirical Evidence From
the Science of Emotion
It is proposed that theories and empirical
findings from the science of emotion have the
potential to contribute to the development of a
more nuanced explanation of men’s emotional
behavior than currently exists in the literature.
Evidence on the consequences of emotional ex-
pressiveness and inexpressiveness from the sci-
ence of emotion is reviewed, and an examina-
tion of approaches scholars have used to predict
the consequences of emotional behavior fol-
lows. Finally, suggestions are offered for how
these perspectives can be integrated with cur-
rent explanations of male emotional behavior.
Consequences of emotional expressiveness.
The empirical evidence suggests that emotional
expression and nonexpression can potentially
have positive and negative consequences. Evi-
dence of the positive outcomes related to the
expression of emotions have been strongly
demonstrated by a series of studies indicating
that writing about one’s feelings related to pain-
ful events has psychological and physiological
benefits (see Pennebaker, 1997b, for a review).
These outcomes include positive influences on
immune function, long-term improvements in
distress, and even improvement in students’ ac-
ademic performance.
The benefits of talking, as opposed to writing,
about one’s emotions appear to be more situ-
ationally determined (Bonanno, 2001). Much of
the research on this subject has focused on
disclosure in psychotherapy. The resulting evi-
dence has been mixed. For example, in a review
of the research on disclosure, Stiles (1995)
found that although therapists rated high levels
of client disclosure as evidence of good thera-
peutic process, disclosure was positively corre-
lated with absolute levels of distress and psy-
chopathology at the beginning and end of treat-
ment. In their review of the literature, Kennedy-
Moore and Watson (1999, 2001) concluded that
the expression of emotions may be helpful or
harmful, depending on a variety of factors. For
example, expressing emotions can reduce dis-
tress if the expresser’s feelings are validated by
a confidant. However, expressing distressful
emotions to a confidant might also threaten the
expresser’s self-esteem by causing him or her to
feel vulnerable (Kennedy-Moore & Watson,
Consequences of emotional inexpressiveness.
Research on the negative consequences of emo-
tional inexpressiveness has focused on the hy-
pothesis that people who inhibit their emotions
are more prone to disease than those who are
emotionally expressive. The suppression of
emotions, for example, has been found to be
associated with the onset and progression of
cancer (see Consedine, Magai, & Bonanno,
2002, for a review). It has been suggested that
emotional inexpressiveness creates an internal
stress response, which leads to the selective
inhibition of components of the immune system
(Consedine et al., 2002). Nevertheless, in a re-
cent meta-analysis of the effects of emotional
behavior in patient samples, no relationship be-
tween either emotional expression or nonex-
pression and disease status was found, although
there was a weak association between increases
in psychological distress and nonexpression
(Panagopoulou, Kersbergen, & Maes, 2002).
Recently, scholars have begun exploring the
adaptive value of emotional inexpressiveness
(Consedine et al., 2002). Bonanno and his col-
leagues conducted a series of studies providing
empirical validation for the potential benefits of
emotional inexpressiveness for people who
have experienced trauma or bereavement (see
Bonanno & Siddique, 1999; Bonanno, 2001, for
overviews). Bonnano (2001) used these results
to suggest that emotional dissociation might
enable individuals to regulate emotional pain or
cope effectively with personal or professional
Emotion-related values. The foregoing re-
view suggests that emotional behavior per se
might not be a good predictor of psychological
and physical health. One way to make sense of
the morass of evidence on the consequences of
emotional behavior is to examine the values
related to this behavior. Relevant values include
an individual’s perception of the importance of
experiencing and expressing emotions, as well
as how, when, and to whom these emotions are
to be expressed or not expressed. The impor-
tance of emotion-related values, as opposed to
behavior, has been noted by several scholars. In
an intriguing study, Ogden and Von Sturmer
(1984) found that individuals who expressed
negative emotions, as well as individuals who
did not express negative emotions but who were
not troubled by them, were psychologically and
physically healthiest. In contrast, individuals
who did not express their negative emotions and
who were dissatisfied with them reported more
physical symptoms. In the same vein, King and
Emmons (1990) have argued that emotional be-
havior, in and of itself, does not predict well-
being. Rather, it is the conflict between one’s
own expressiveness style (which can include
expressiveness or inexpressiveness) and anoth-
er’s expressiveness style or with social norms
that leads to detrimental effects. King and Em-
mons (1990, 1991) have developed the Ambiv-
alence Over Emotional Expressiveness Ques-
tionnaire (AEQ) to measure conflict about ex-
pressing feelings. A sample item of the AEQ is,
“I want to express my emotions honestly but I
am afraid that it may cause embarrassment or
hurt.” Conflict over the expression of emotions
has been found to be related to several negative
outcomes, such as psychological distress (King
& Emmons, 1990, 1991), less positivity in close
relationships (Mongrain & Vettese, 2003), and
confusion in reading the emotions of others
(King, 1998).
A possible explanation for this relationship
between conflicts and negative outcomes is that
conflicted individuals engage in tremendous
cognitive activity around their emotional urges,
resulting in obsessive ruminations that ulti-
mately prolong negative mood states (Mongrain
& Vettese, 2003). Some emotionally inexpres-
sive individuals, for example, might wish they
could be more expressive and might regularly
feel frustrated with themselves for not disclos-
ing their emotions.
Conflict in emotion-related values can also be
experienced externally. An individual might ex-
perience conflict between his or her values and
those of significant others. Such clashes can
also lead to negative outcomes. Research on
marital communication has demonstrated that
discrepancies in partner levels of affective self-
disclosure are negatively related to marital ad-
justment (Davidson, Balswick, & Halverson,
1983). Hence, it appears that the “goodness of
fit” between one’s emotion-related values and
those of significant others is pertinent in pre-
dicting the consequences of one’s emotional
Applications to current conceptualizations of
male emotional behavior. The above research
has significance for understanding men’s emo-
tional behavior. Rather than viewing male emo-
tional inexpressiveness as inherently problem-
atic, it is suggested that the negative conse-
quences of men’s emotional inexpressiveness
might be accounted for either by a conflict in
their own emotion-related values and/or a con-
flict between these values and those of impor-
tant individuals in their lives. It is also proposed
that men who do not face such conflicts would
tend to be psychologically and physically
The concept of conflict in emotion-related
values can be integrated with the gender-role
socialization paradigm to explain male emo-
tional inexpressiveness. O’Neil and his col-
leagues (O’Neil et al., 1995, p. l67) noted that
men undergo gender-role conflict when they
“experience discrepancies between their real
self-concept and their ideal self-concept, based
on gender role stereotypes.” Men with gender-
role conflict as manifested in high levels of
restrictive emotionality might be understood as
experiencing conflicts in their emotion-related
values: They wish to be more expressive but are
threatened by perceived social disapproval. It
can be argued that this conflict between desire
and perceived social expectations appears to be
particularly problematic.
Clinical Implications
The foregoing discussion suggests several
important clinical implications. In addressing
male clients’ emotional inexpressiveness, coun-
selors and therapists need to be aware of the
diversity of possible causes of inexpressiveness
and tailor their clinical interventions to fit the
specific nature of their clients’ nonexpression.
In this respect, the process model of emotional
expression and nonexpression (Kennedy-Moore
& Watson, 1999) could serve as a useful guide.
For example, men who frequently repress their
feelings or who cannot identify what they feel
(disruptions at Steps 2 and 3, respectively)
might benefit from exercises that help them
identify and label their emotions (Levant,
1998). In contrast, inexpressive men who eval-
uate their emotions negatively (disruption at
Step 4) might profit from cognitive therapy to
challenge negative beliefs about expressing
their feelings (Mahalik, 1999) or psychoeduca-
tion on the adaptive value of emotions (Robert-
son & Freeman, 1995). Some men might be
reluctant to express feelings because they be-
lieve women are more emotional than men and
that to be emotionally expressive is to be like a
woman (Robertson & Freeman, 1995). Explain-
ing to these men that research has demonstrated
that sex differences in emotionality are small,
inconsistent, or limited to specific situational
contexts (Wester et al., 2002) might help liber-
ate them from this fear.
Clinicians may also benefit from reconsider-
ing the modes of emotional expression they
consider healthy and appropriate for men
(Wester et al., 2002). Heesacker and Prichard
(1992), for example, criticized the tendency
among counselors and therapists to focus on the
verbal expression of emotions, which, they as-
sert, emphasizes a feminine approach to
Changing the accepted mode of expression in
counseling could be helpful for some men. Rob-
ertson and his colleagues (Robertson et al.,
2001) recommended that getting male clients
with high levels of gender-role stress to report
feelings in a structured way (e.g., charting the
intensity of their emotion on a visual scale) is
likely to be more effective than asking, “How
do you feel?” because the former is more com-
patible with a traditional male emphasis on task
completion and structured activity.
In addition, the review of the literature on
consequences of men’s emotional behavior sug-
gests that clinicians who use their male clients’
degree of emotional expressiveness or inexpres-
siveness as a heuristic for judging their psycho-
logical health could be relying on an overly
simplistic epistemology. Instead, they should
consider paying more attention to their male
clients’ emotion-related values and how these
values influence their psychological function-
ing. For example, counselors and therapists
could help male clients resolve conflicts among
their emotion-related values or mismatches be-
tween their values and those of significant oth-
ers. Furthermore, counselors and therapists
should consider the possibility that their male
clients’ inexpressiveness is a strength that can
be used to help them deal with their problems
(Heesacker & Prichard, 1992)—for example,
remaining calm and problem-focused in times
of crisis (Mahalik, Good, & Englar-Carlson,
Last, instead of viewing emotional expres-
sion as the panacea for inexpressive men, coun-
selors and therapists should broaden their scope
of interventions to help their male clients de-
velop flexible patterns of emotional behavior
that can be adapted to their own emotion-related
values as well as those of important persons in
their lives. Because emotional expression might
not be inherently better than emotional nonex-
pression, the goal should be to help male clients
learn when, how, and to whom they should
express or not express their emotions (Green-
berg, 2002; Kennedy-Moore & Watson, 2001).
Recommendations for Research
In view of the earlier discussion on the causes
of emotional inexpressiveness, researchers
studying male emotional inexpressiveness are
encouraged to broaden the scope and method-
ology of their research agendas to include the
diverse causes of men’s inexpressiveness. Re-
searchers could analyze which disruption in
Kennedy-Moore and Watson’s (1999) process
model is the best predictor of the Restrictive
Emotionality Scale (O’Neil et al., 1986), the
most widely used measure of male emotional
inexpressiveness. At present, there is no single
instrument that can assess all five disruptions in
the process model. However, there are existing
instruments that can measure individual disrup-
tions. For example, physiological responses
(Step 1) can be assessed using the Focused
Technology F1000 Instrumentation System
(BioMedical Instruments, Inc., Warren, MI; see
Robertson et al., 2001, for an example of a
study that used this instrument), whereas the
evaluation of one’s emotions (Step 3) can be
measured using the Attitudes Towards Emo-
tional Expression Scale (Joseph, Williams, Ir-
wing, & Cammock, 1994).
With respect to men’s preferred modes of
emotional expression, an untapped area of study
is how different types of men might benefit
from the writing interventions associated with
the research of Pennebaker and his colleagues
(see Pennebaker, 1997b, for a review). There is
evidence suggesting that men and individuals
high on the trait of alexithymia appear to benefit
more from writing than women (Smyth, 1998)
and individuals low on alexithymia (Solano,
Donati, Pecci, Persichetti, & Colaci, 2003). It is
not difficult to speculate that writing interven-
tions would be especially helpful for men who
have difficulties expressing emotions. Research
should also be conducted to examine the extent
to which men with varying levels of adherence
to traditional male role norms would be willing
to express their emotions across differing mo-
dalities of counseling (e.g., face-to-face, e-mail,
and audio counseling).
With regard to research on the consequences
of men’s emotional behavior, Kelly and Hall
(1992) lamented that the literature on counsel-
ing men has adopted a pathological model to
explain emotional inexpressiveness rather than
a positive developmental approach that focuses
on promoting and affirming men’s strengths.
Consistent with this critique, more research
should be conducted on the adaptive values of
men’s emotional inexpressiveness using non-
pathological measures of emotional inexpres-
siveness (Mahalik, Locke, et al., 2003). Re-
cently, Mahalik and his colleagues (Mahalik,
Locke, et al., 2003) developed the Conformity
to Masculine Norms Inventory (CMNI), which
measures adherence to masculine gender norms.
It allows for the examination of both the costs
and benefits related to conformity and noncon-
formity to masculine gender-role norms. One of
the subscales of the CMNI, the Emotional Con-
trol subscale, measures a form of male emo-
tional inexpressiveness. Although research on
the CMNI is just beginning, it represents a
promising model to research positive and
negative consequences of men’s emotional
More research should also be conducted on
the mediating and moderating factors linking
emotional behavior to physiological and psy-
chological outcomes. In respect of possible me-
diators, it is surmised that one’s conflict over
emotional expression will mediate the relation-
ship between men’s restrictive emotionality and
counseling-related variables. In addition, cur-
rent theories and models of masculinity ideolo-
gies are based on research conducted primarily
with White men of Western European ancestry
in the United States (Good & Sherrod, 2001).
Hence, in considering possible moderators, re-
searchers could explore whether and how race-
related variables might alter the relationship
between men’s emotional behavior and psycho-
logical outcomes.
Summary and Conclusion
In this article, it has been argued that male
emotional behavior is not a unidimensional trait
but a multifaceted construct with many causes,
modes, and consequences. Male emotional in-
expressiveness should be understood in light of
its many possible causes, including a high
threshold for emotional activation, lack of
awareness of emotion, inability to identify feel-
ings, negative evaluations of one’s emotions,
and perceived lack of social opportunity to ex-
press feelings. An examination of men’s emo-
tional behavior must also consider the diverse
modes through which men express emotion.
Some men are more likely to disclose feelings
through nonverbal rather than verbal modes of
expression. Finally, the link between men’s
emotional behavior and their physiological and
psychological health is complex. Men’s emo-
tional behavior might not be a good predictor of
their health outcomes. Instead, researchers and
clinicians should attend to how difficulties re-
lated to men’s emotion-related values affect
their lives and acknowledge the adaptive value
of certain facets of men’s emotional behavior.
The above review underscores the need for
researchers and clinicians to be grounded in the
science of emotion (Heesacker et al., 1999;
Wester et al., 2002). Researchers can borrow
from the rich tapestry of emotion research and
theory to construct more sophisticated concep-
tualizations of men’s emotional behavior. Sim-
ilarly, clinicians with a strong background in the
science of emotion would benefit from becom-
ing better equipped to devise appropriate inter-
ventions to meet men’s emotional needs. Re-
searchers and clinicians are encouraged to adopt
a balanced approach to addressing men’s emo-
tional expression and nonexpression that neither
glorifies nor overpathologizes their emotional
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Received November 14, 2003
Revision received April 1, 2004
Accepted April 12, 2004
... This may be a reason why majority of them are inclined to face-to-face counselling. This finding is consistent with Wong and Rochlen (2005), who found that men with low restrictive emotionality expressed favouritism to face-to-face counselling though they did not decline to use e-counselling. The present's findings consistency with Wong and Rochlen (2005) finding does not mean that the male students had emotional issues which were not included in this study; but then, it may be that the male students deem it more appropriate to choose face-to-face counselling since they believe that will be the best mode to address their issues as compared to the females. ...
... This finding is consistent with Wong and Rochlen (2005), who found that men with low restrictive emotionality expressed favouritism to face-to-face counselling though they did not decline to use e-counselling. The present's findings consistency with Wong and Rochlen (2005) finding does not mean that the male students had emotional issues which were not included in this study; but then, it may be that the male students deem it more appropriate to choose face-to-face counselling since they believe that will be the best mode to address their issues as compared to the females. ...
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It is common knowledge that face-to-face counselling is practiced in every country. Conversely, e-counselling is offered in many countries even though some experts disagree with its effectiveness and ethicality. The study, thus, purposed to gain a deeper understanding of students’ values and challenges of face-to-face and e-counselling in Ghanaian universities. Therefore, a cross-sectional survey design was adopted. A standardized instrument: Online and Face-to-face Counselling Attitudes Scales, and a Satisfaction Questionnaire were adapted for the data collection. T-test and multiple linear regression were used to analyse data set from 384 students. Findings revealed that although technological devices are largely accessible, students value face-to-face counselling than e-counselling. However, their inclination to e-counselling cannot be overlooked. Also, there was no significant difference in students’ values to e-counselling for gender. Again, the male students value face-to-face counselling more as compared to female students. The multiple regression revealed that values of face-to-face and e-counselling predicated satisfaction to face-to-face and e-counselling respectively. It is recommended that university counselling practitioners should enhance the use of face-to-face counselling and train in e-counselling so that students will be offered options in counselling services.
... Further, Chandler (2021) warns that lobbying men to talk about their emotions is naïve because it ignores the silencing powers of dominant masculinities. In addition, the quality of men's talk is important, and some emotionally expressive behaviours in men do not predict psychological wellness (Wong & Rochlen, 2005). With these complexities in mind, Waling (2019) called for diversity and inclusion to account for and advance men's agency and emotional reflexivity in wide-ranging gender relations. ...
Men’s emotions in intimate partner relationships have received little research attention. The current interpretive descriptive study included 30 Canadian‐based men to address the research question: What are the connections between masculinities and men’s emotions in and after intimate partner relationships? Three inductively derived themes included emergent distressing emotions wherein participants’ predominance for holding in abeyance their concerns about the relationship manifested varying levels of emotional stoicism. Within this context most men denied or downplayed and did not express their emotions. When the relationship broke, men were overwhelmed by mixed and weighty break‐up emotions comprising diverse and often‐times discordant emotions, including sadness, shame, anger, regret and guilt, calling into question men’s rationality for deciphering and expressing what was concurrently but inexplicably felt. Shame and anger were prominent emotions demanding the participant’s attention to all that happened in and at the end of the relationship. In the third theme, understanding and transitioning after‐burn emotions, participant’s grief levered their efforts, including soliciting professional help for deconstructing, reframing and expressing their emotions in the aftermath of the partnership ending. The findings contextualise and in some instances counter claims about the utility of men’s emotional stoicism by mapping participants’ feelings in and after intimate partner relationships.
... This may manifest in externalising depression symptoms, leading to negative effects in the form of suicidal/self-harm ideation. In clinical settings, the common alignment of traditional masculine socialization with avoidant coping processes [39,62] and male-type depressive symptoms [63] can both be misinterpreted as normative masculine behaviour (i.e., 'men being men'), resulting in underlying depression being overlooked. ...
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There is a critical need for community advocates to understand the mental health needs of Black or African American (BA) men and the hesitancy in regard to accessing mental health services. Traditional, western masculinity powerfully influences how BA men perceive mental health struggles and vice versa, how reaching out for help and support affects an individual is perceived as being a man. Racial discrimination, marginalization and institutional oppression need to be taken into account when exploring mental health among BA men, especially in how these experiences interact with the enactment of masculinity. There is a great need for those who work with BA men to be aware of the mental health trends of this population, and the sociopolitical dynamics in the United States that contribute to them, equipped to effectively employ gender-adapted strategies with BA men, and familiar with evidenced-based approaches for promoting BA men's health and wellbeing in a way that is culturally responsive.
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Issue Addressed: Three years have passed since the Australian Government's Department of Health released its National Men's Health Strategy 2020-2030. Presently , little evidence is available to show whether the strategy has achieved success in rectifying men's mental-ill health, particularly the experience of stigma when expressing vulnerable emotions such as grief. Concurrently, research within the field of psychology continues to show that men experience significant pressure to conform faithfully to their socialised gender role. Given the focus to better men's mental health in Australia, this study ascertained people's perceptions of men experiencing grief. Methods: The study adopted social constructionism to explore how participants perceived a fictious character living with grief using a hypothetical vignette by way of convenience sampling. Nine males and seven females who resided in Australia participated in answering seven questions concerning the character's experience of grief. Results: Inductive thematic analysis yielded three themes which collectively represented perceptions of masculinised grief. Notably, avoid stigma by fixing grief, avoid stigma by quickly getting over grief, and avoid stigma by suppressing the expression of grief. So What? The study suggests that a stronger research focus should be targeted towards rectifying stigma resulting from men's expression of vulnerable emotions by incorporating in depth interviews in order to create worthwhile public awareness initiatives. Such initiatives should seek to minimise societal pressures that are placed upon men to ensure conformity to dominant masculine ideologies and their socialised gendered role when experiencing and expressing vulnerable emotions such as grief.
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We examined the relations between Gender Role Conflict (GRC) patterns, Gay Identity, Relationship Satisfaction (RS) and three of Sternberg’s Relationship Love Types (Fatuous Love, Infatuation, Companionate Love). Self-identified gay men ( n = 232) completed an online survey. A path model showed that Companionate Love Type mediated effects upon RS. Specifically, (a) the negative effects of GRC patterns, Restricted Emotionality, Restricted Affectionate Behaviour Between Men and Success, Power, and Competition, (b) the negative effect of the Gay Identity dimension, Internalized Homonegativity and (c) the negative effect of Infatuation and the positive effect of Fatuous love. Conclusively, GRC and Gay Identity seem to negatively affect the emotional exchange and communication between partners and their overall subjective evaluation of the relationship. Acceptance and empowerment by the significant other or negotiating one’s role in the relationship may be a better “territory” of confronting and managing Gay Identity and GRC issues in ameliorating one’s relationship.
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In this article, we consider how heterosexual young people navigate emotionality in their early dating practices. We draw on the ‘cold intimacy’ thesis (Hochschild, 1994; Illouz, 2007; 2012; 2018) that posits that emotions have increasingly become things to be evaluated, measured, quantified and categorised. Within the context of intimate relationships, research suggests that while young people are often open about the physical aspects of casual sex, they are reluctant to demonstrate emotional attachment, with vulnerability deemed shameful (Wade, 2017). Drawing on in-depth interviews with UK-based dating app users aged 18–25, we find that emotional attachment is rarely articulated, and is seen as a sign of weakness in the early stages of a relationship. For our participants, emotions become bargaining chips, with the ‘winner’ being the party with the least to lose, the least invested and the least emotionally attached. While this applies to both the young men and women interviewed, our findings demonstrate a gendered imbalance of power in intimate relationships, as female participants express a fear of emotional hurt, while male participants work to avoid potential rejection and humiliation. As a result, most connections remain suspended in what we identify as the ‘failed talking stage’. This is underpinned by the removal of channels of accountability, coupled with entrenched heteronormative sexual scripts shaping gender roles at this stage.
In November, 2006, the National Union of Students proposed that the men’s lifestyle magazines Nuts and Zoo be taken off university shop shelves and sold under the counter (, 13 November, 2006). This paper reviews the body of research since 2000 into the constructions of masculinity portrayed in such lifestyle magazines and suggests that to understand the messages of the magazines is to gain insight into the masculinities being constructed and their appeal for the white, male readers at whom the magazines are aimed. In turn, this reveals possible implications for counselling psychology if men are constructing masculinity in ways that may impact on mental health or on willingness to address emotional issues.
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This article examines the findings of several reviews of the empirical literature on biological sex and emotion, focusing on the degree to which perceived sex differences in emotionality are, and in most cases are not, supported while at the same time addressing the implications this body of research has for counseling psychologists. This article also explores potential explanations, such as gender role socialization or situational influences, for the profession’s continued acceptance of large innate sex-based affective differences. Finally, the third section discusses several concerns this continued acceptance raises for the practice of counseling, whereas the last section offers a research agenda building on the review presented herein.
My aim in this paper is to analyze men’s power from the perspective afforded by the emerging antisexist men’s movement. In the last several years, an antisexist men’s movement has appeared in North America and in the Western European countries. While it is not so widely known as the women’s movement, the men’s movement has generated a variety of books, publications, and organizations* and is now an established presence. The present and future political relationship between the women’s movement and the men’s movement raises complex questions which I do not deal with here, though they are clearly important ones. Instead, here I present my own view of the contribution which the men’s movement and men’s analysis make to a feminist understanding of men and power, and of men’s power over women, particularly in relation to the power that men often perceive women have over them. Then I will analyze two other power relationships men are implicated in—men’s power with other men, and men’s power in society generally—and suggest how these two other power relationships interact with men’s power over women.
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.
Based upon responses to questionnaries by 162 university married-housing couples (324 persons), equity theory was used to explain the relations between affective self-disclosure and marital adjustment. Specifically, it was found that the greater the discrepancy in partners' affective self-disclosure, the less was an individual's marital adjustment. This finding held for individuals who indicated receiving either more or less disclosure than they gave. In addition, individuals who indicated high levels of marital adjustment were more likely than those who indicated low levels of marital adjustment to distort selectively their perceptions of disclosure received, in an apparent attempt to eliminate distress from their relationships.
This study investigated whether men age 30 to 50 are able to increase their level of affective expressiveness, as measured by both self‐report and behavioral tests. Twenty‐eight subjects, drawn from a pool of 42 volunteers who met the criteria for participation, were randomly selected and placed into experimental or control groups. Experimental group subjects participated in a multimodal group intervention based on Social Learning Theory principles and targeted at changing cognitive, affecfive, and behavioral components of expressiveness. Results of the analyses revealed significant group differences in expressiveness across measures. That is, men can learn to express their feelings given the proper conditions. The experimental group showed greater consistency between their self‐reported and actual behavioral expressiveness than did the control group. The contrast between subjects' behavorial expressiveness and perceived frequency of expressiveness are considered. Implications for counseling are discussed.
Three hundred one men with a range of gender role conflict, career decidedness, and attitudes toward career counseling evaluated 2 contrasting career counseling approaches and expressed their willingness to participate in a career counseling session. More traditional men expressed equal levels of value but higher stigma toward career counseling compared with less traditional men. Overall, men preferred a more directive approach to career counseling over a more contextual, emotionally oriented approach. Preferences were not modified by gender role conflict. Finally, restrictive affectionate behavior among men was predictive of willingness to participate in a career counseling session. The implications and limitations of the study and ideas for future research are discussed.