Article Review

By Karen E. Engebretsen Psy.D., LLC.



Masculine Gender Role Stress and Intimate Abuse: Effects of Masculine Gender Relevance of Dating Situations and Female Threat on Men’s Attributions and Affective Responses


Joseph Francina, Richard M. Eisler, and Todd M. Moore


Is there a link between how men view their masculine gender role and the level of violent behavior they exhibit toward female partners?


Previous research suggests a correlation (Telch and Lindquist, 1984). In one study, violent husbands were shown to hold more traditional sex role attitudes than did non-violent husbands.  Also, in a 1995 study, Vass and Gold looked at men who were determined to hold exaggerated masculine ideology, These  subjects tended to express greater  anger in response to negative feedback from women than did men with less adherence to that ideology.


In laying the groundwork for their research, the authors also cited a variety of studies, including one that utilized the “ice water test” as a means to ascribe gender relevance to a neutral activity. A range of research suggested that  the length  of time men kept their hands submerged in ice water depended on their appraisal of the task as being relevant or irrelevant to masculine ideology.


Francina, Eisler and Moore make a strong case for the perception of masculine gender relevance as a source of stress for some men. If this is the case, then what would be the effect of threats to male dominance in masculine relevant situations – especially, if those threats were generated by women?


To test this question, the authors used the Masculine gender Role Stress  (MGRS) scale. Their subjects were men identified as susceptible to stress in situations that involved subordination to women. Audio-taped vignettes of women contradicting or criticizing men were played  back for subjects in two categories: First, masculine gender relevant situations and, second, masculine gender irrelevant settings. 


The results  demonstrated that negative attributions and reports of anger and  irritation were greater in the masculine relevant situations. Additionally, the subjects who scored high on MGRS reported significantly higher negative attributions than the low-scoring MGRS men.


This study goes on to suggest that threats to masculine ideology from female partners had the effect of  transforming a gender irrelevant situation into one that was gender relevant.  This was true of both study groups: the men who scored lower on the MGRS as well  as the high- scoring men. In essence, this study reveals a statistically significant interaction effect between gender relevance and female threat. These results were consistent with previous similar studies. 

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