Men who feel insecure about their masculinity may be more likely to resort to violence, research in the USA has shown.
In a survey of 600 men, those who perceived themselves as less masculine and worried what other people thought of them were as likely to say they had committed a violent act as those men who identified themselves as particularly masculine.
By contrast, those men who considered themselves less masculine than average, but didn’t worry about it, were the least likely to act violently, or to engage in other dangerous behaviour, such as drink driving.
The researchers behind the study, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Violence Prevention, said that violence control efforts should focus on how “gender norms may induce distress in boys and men” that could lead them to “act out” with risk-taking or violence.
Men are already known to be at greater risk of injury and poor health, and are more likely to take risks like drug-taking, driving under the influence and carrying a weapon, the study said. Those who identify as highly masculine are generally more likely to take part in these behaviours.
However, the findings indicate that insecurity could also be a factor underlying aggressive or dangerous acts. In the survey men were asked how strongly they agreed with statements that tested their own attitudes to their masculinity, such as “I am less masculine than the average guy”.
They were also asked to respond to statements that indicated how worried they were about this – such as “I wish I was more manly” and “I worry that women find me less attractive because I’m not as macho as other guys”.
Finally they were asked to give information on whether they had ever been in a fight, assaulted someone, used a weapon or intentionally caused serious injury.
Those who both considered themselves less masculine, and worried about others perceptions of them because of this – known as masculine discrepancy stress – were more than three times more likely to have committed an assault that caused injury, than those who had low levels of this kind of stress, the study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, found.
They were also more likely to have committed assault with a weapon.