The Psychology of Men's Health

By Christina Lee; R. Glynn Owens | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 1
Gender and men's health

Research in both psychology and health has traditionally focused on men to the neglect of women. So why do we need a book on the psychology of men's health? It is unquestionably the case that psychological research and theory have overwhelmingly focused on men's lives and men's experiences, and that psychology - in common with other scientific fields - has assumed that men's experiences and perspectives are normative in a way that women's are not.

But the effects of the gendered nature of society on men's health and well-being have largely been ignored by mainstream psychologists. Although men may have been the centre of attention, implicitly or explicitly regarded as the 'norm' from which women are to a greater or lesser extent deviant or inferior, men have not been studied from the perspective of gender: what, other than biology, does it mean to be a man in contemporary society, and how might social and cultural expectations of masculinity affect men's behaviour, their expectations, their relationships, and their physical and emotional health?

Disciplines such as sociology, history and cultural studies have long ago developed an awareness of the gendered nature of men's experience, of the artificial nature of social definitions of 'masculine' behaviours and attitudes, and of the effects that gender stereotypes have on men's well-being (for example Pleck 1976; Brod 1987; Segal 1990; Brod and Kaufman 1994; Connell 1995; Mac an Ghaill 1996; Petersen 1998). But these developments have not been reflected in the discipline of psychology, which continues to lack any coherent body of research on gender issues as they impinge on the lives of men.

Psychological research can be criticized for assuming an artificially genderneutral perspective on human behaviour. Mainstream psychology either treats systemic gender inequities in income, social responsibilities, social power, and access to resources as natural and inevitable, or assumes them

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