Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Gender Role Conflict and Separation-Individuation Difficulties: Their Impact on College Men's Loneliness

Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Gender Role Conflict and Separation-Individuation Difficulties: Their Impact on College Men's Loneliness

Article excerpt

O'Neil's gender role conflict paradigm (GRC; O'Neil, Helms, Gable, David, & Wrightsman, 1986) has contributed significantly to our understanding of the psychology of men and masculinity (Good, Borst, & Wallace, 1994; Smiler, 2004; Thompson, Pleck, & Ferrera, 1992). In this paper, the relationship between the GRC paradigm and men's separation-individuation difficulties and loneliness is investigated. O'Neil, Good, and Holmes (1995) stated that gender role conflict is a psychological state in which socialized gender roles have negative consequences on the person or others. Gender role conflict occurs when rigid, sexist, or restrictive gender roles result in restriction, devaluation, or violation of others or self. The ultimate outcome of this kind of conflict is a restriction of the human potential, either of the person experiencing the conflict or upon another. O'Neil's GRC paradigm is based upon the Masculine Mystique and Value System (O'Neil, 1981, 1982). These are a set of complex ideal masculine values that males are socialized to accept; although, ultimately, they are based on rigid masculine stereotypes and are responsible for creating men's fear of the feminine (O'Neil, 1981; 1982).

The fear of the feminine is a key concept in the GRC paradigm and is thought responsible for producing six patterns of role conflict: restricted emotionality; socialized control, power, and competition; homophobia; restricted sexual and affectionate behaviors; obsession with success and achievement; and health care problems. Eventually, these patterns were operationalized through factor analysis into four subscales that constitute the Gender Role Conflict Scale (GRCS): Restricted Emotionality, Success, Power, and Competition, Conflict between Work and Family, and Restricted Affectionate Behavior Between Men (O'Neil et al., 1986). An extensive body of research connecting the GRCS to men's psychological distress and dysfunction has been produced (see O'Neil, 2002). It was hypothesized that the GRCS would be a significant predictor of psychological distress in this study as well. This study explored the GRCS as a predictor for male psychological distress as measured by separation-individuation difficulties and loneliness. This study is the first to examine these relationships.

Loneliness, Gender Role Conflict, and Separation-Individuation Difficulties

Loneliness was chosen as the measure of psychological distress to investigate with our sample because it potentially fits with the theoretical notion of the gender role conflict paradigm. In traditional male socialization, men are taught to strive for a near insular mode of existence through self-reliance and/or a wish to keep others at a distance in order to hide conflicts about their masculinity (Blazina & Watkins, 2000; Brannon, 1985; Pollack, 1995). In addition, research has shown that the GRCS is connected to interpersonal difficulties that may lay the foundation for loneliness to emerge. GRC has been related to men's rigid interpersonal behaviors and extreme interpersonal conduct including hostility, mistrust, detachment, and dominance (Mahalik, 2000). The GRCS's Restricted Emotionality subscale has been significantly associated with adult men's problems with intimacy (Cournoyer & Mahalik, 1995; Fischer & Good, 1997; Good et al., 1995; Sharpe & Heppner, 1991; Sharpe, Heppner, & Dixon, 1995), the lack of interpersonal competence/closeness, less intimate self-disclosure (Bruch, Berko, & Haase, 1998), and shyness (Bruch, 2002; Bruch et al.). In addition, studies have assessed how women's perceptions of their partner's GRC are related to their own relationship satisfaction and psychological health (Breiding & Smith, 2002; Rochlen & Mahalik, 2004). Rochlen and Mahalik (2004) found that women's predictions of high scores for their partners on the Restricted Emotionality subscale significantly predicted lower relationship satisfaction. …

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