Middle-aged find it tougher to be macho

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Men get less macho as they grow older. Those who behave badly in their youth can transform themselves into caring, sharing new men in middle age, a new study has shown.

These males are less likely to view women as sex objects, to favour toughness and the use of force, or disapprove of signs of femininity in other men, the BPS conference heard.

Professor John Archer, an expert on the mysteries of machismo in western culture, said the burden of jobs, marriage, and children, may be more significant than diminishing testosterone levels in the loss of macho. Less pressure to attract women and to prove to others that you are "hard and tough" is also a factor.

"A strongly physical masculinity is more important at younger ages as a strategy for competing with other men, with the ultimate aim of attracting women," Professor Archer said. "At older ages ... they have less need to be involved in this type of masculinity."

Professor Archer, from the Central Lancashire University, gave a questionnaire on a macho values to 600 men from a wide range of backgrounds.They were aged between 18 and 45 years and living in the North West of England. The questionnaire measured how much they agreed with statements such as "Wife swapping is fine as long as both men agree"... "There are too many wimps and cowards around today"... and "Real men don't back away from bar-room confrontations."

They were also asked how much they agreed with statements such as "It's a good thing for men to cry". Professor Archer found that the older the men, the less they endorsed macho attitudes. "We didn't anticipate this negative relationship with age," he said.

A further analysis of the group found that unemployed and manual workers revealed more macho tendencies, correlating with the traditional view of masculinity which is less prevalent in the more educated middle class samples, such as office workers and students.

The scores for sportsmen were lower than expected, but they were largely drawn from the middle classes so that occupation rather than choice of a particularly masculine sport was a determining factor.

The study also revealed a close link between heavy drinking and perceptions of masculinity. "Heavy drinking ... does provide yet another way for boys to seek to become men," Professor Archer added.