Psychology of Men

Men have no persona, they play no role. They are men, and that is the long and short of it. That has always been the traditional view, and even the biblical perspective.

Men were considered good at problem-solving and decision-making. While not free from their own problems, the first precept of conventional wisdom held that men had to keep certain things to themselves. This was the expectation, and was considered the manly thing to do. But times have changed and society has grown more complex. In the process, the perception of who man is and what he stands for has changed as well.

It has become trendy to devalue the male, his maleness and by extension, his masculinity. The degree to which any man has been personally affected by this attitude depends on a number of factors; some are troubled by it, many are not. Others refer to the trend and pronounce the male to be in crisis.

Fortunately, contemporary society empowers men to build a new and better reality for themselves. In large measure this development is a result of the success other groups in society have had in exposing basic conflicts between societal expectation and personal aspiration. These groups have gained a wide and generally receptive audience in recent decades and no group has been more active in pursuing human rights than the women's movement. But men's issues are frequently not the same as women's and in fact can be significantly different.

Beginning with a societal evolution filtered by hundreds of cultures and continuing through innumerable physiological, emotional, social, and psychological experiences, men and women have been historically set apart. Also historically, the individual man as well as the collective cohort was directed by circumstances into the leadership or dominant role in male-female interactions. 'Masculine' and 'male' came to be used to describe the behavior of the poor loser and the graceful winner. Equally important, words such as these took on a sexual significance that tended to mirror the word's general meaning. 'Manliness' described behavior that was chivalrous, perhaps tender and sensitive. 'Masculinity,' on the other hand, being shorthand for gender, could be used as easily for condemnation as for praise.

Most men don't spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to them to be a man. That's because in our society being a man is an advantage, one that does not often invite self-reflection. Even when men are interested in discussing such topics, they are often cautious to do so for fear of being perceived as politically incorrect and chauvinistic. The pressure to rigidly adhere to this masculine ideal can make life pretty complicated for men. But the past decade has seen an explosion in the range and availability of grooming products designed specifically for young men.

Research appears to suggest that men are now taking a greater interest in their appearance than ever before and reaching for the moisturizers and anti-aging creams. A 2007 report from the market research firm Mintel found that between 2002 and 2006 the male grooming market in the UK tripled in value to an estimated worth of GBP781 million and sales of men's body lotions, body toning gels, depilatories and sun-care products increased by 77 percent over the same period. However, these dramatic increases come from a small base. As that same report noted, only a third of men were using any products beyond the basics, and only one in five were using products daily, with under-35s far more likely to use products than their elders. As the opening line of the paper notes: "Men's grooming habits are slowly changing, but not as quickly as the men's grooming industry would like."

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Psychological and Psychiatric Problems in Men
Joan Gomez.
Routledge, 1993
Growing up Male: The Psychology of Masculinity
B. Mark Schoenberg.
Bergin & Garvey, 1993
Boys into Men: Staying Healthy through the Teen Years
Mark A. Goldstein; Myrna Chandler Goldstein.
Greenwood Press, 2000
The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character
Eli H. Newberger.
Perseus Publishing, 2000
The Psychology of Men's Health
Christina Lee; R. Glynn Owens.
Open University Press, 2002
The (Un)Emotional Male: Physiological, Verbal, and Written Correlates of Expressiveness
Robertson, John M.; Woodford, Joyce; Lin, Chi-Wei; Danos, Kimberly K.; Hurst, Mark A.
The Journal of Men's Studies, Vol. 9, No. 3, Spring 2001
The Male Experience of Depression
Heifner, Christine.
Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, Vol. 33, No. 2, April-June 1997
Marriage in Men's Lives
Steven L. Nock.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Bachelors: The Psychology of Men Who Haven't Married
Charles A. Waehler.
Praeger, 1996
The Dark Side of Man: Tracing the Origins of Male Violence
Michael P. Ghiglieri.
Helix Books, 2000
The Male Mind at Work: A Woman's Guide to Working with Men
Deborah J. Swiss.
Perseus Publishing, 2000
Sexual Health for Men: The Complete Guide
Richard F. Spark.
Perseus Publishing, 2000
The Batterer: A Psychological Profile
Donald G. Dutton; Susan K. Golant.
Basic Books, 1995
Marginalizing the Battered Male
Migliaccio, Todd A.
The Journal of Men's Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2, Winter 2001
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