Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

The Relationship of Violence to Gender Role Conflict and Conformity to Masculine Norms in a Forensic Sample

Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

The Relationship of Violence to Gender Role Conflict and Conformity to Masculine Norms in a Forensic Sample

Article excerpt

Acts of violence claim a multitude of victims from both genders and all ages, racial groups, and socioeconomic levels (Matson & Klaus, 2008; Rand, 2009). Violence is a persistent, complex and intricate phenomenon not only to understand, but also to study and prevent. Researchers, theorists, therapists, parents and teachers have reported that boys and men are more aggressive and violent than women (Archer, 1994; Garbarino, 1999; Meehan & Kerig, 2010; Pollack, 1998, 2006; Simon & Baxter, 1989). This observation is statistically supported by the large number of men who initiate violence toward women, children and other men (Nisbitt, 1995; West & Sabol, 2009; U.S. Department of Justice, 2009b).

"Violence refers to acts, intentional or not, that result in physical harm to another person or persons" (Chasin, 1997, p. 4). This definition does not take into account the psychological harm that is inflicted on people who become victims of violence. A more complex definition by Chasin (1997) includes structural and interpersonal definitions of violence. Structural violence includes day-to-day activities that deny people resources needed to live a more comfortable life. Institutional violence is more insidious and harder to detect, but the results can be as devastating as those of interpersonal violence. Finally, Kruttschnitt (1994) states that violence is an interpersonal act committed by one or more human beings that "threaten, attempt or actually inflict physical harm" (p. 294) to another human being.

The United States criminal justice system is inundated with cases stemming from violent crime initiated by men. In 2007, police arrested 597,447 people for committing violent crimes. Men comprised 81.8 percent of this number. This number represents nearly one fourth of the total number of arrests for that same year (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009a). More than half of the men incarcerated in state and federal prisons in 2005 committed violent crimes (West & Sabol, 2009). While the average American (male or female) has a 6.6 percent chance of being incarcerated in a state or federal prison, the rate for men is higher at 11.3 percent (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009a). According to the U.S. Department of Justice (2009b) violent crimes in the 1990s and into the twenty-first century can, in fact, be attributed to men. Archer (1994) writes that male violence is the primary source of human suffering in our world. Violence associated with men has become a major health problem in the U.S. especially when directed toward women and children (Archer, 1994; Goodman, Koss, Fitzgerald, Russo, & Keita, 1993; Greene, 1999; Harway & O'Neil, 1999; Mahalik, 1997; Silverstein, 1999). Violent crime had been decreasing in the latter part of the 1990s and into the twenty first century, but the numbers still remain high. In 2010 the estimated number of violent crime offenses totaled 1,246,248--a rate of 403.6 per 100,000 people (U.S. Department of Justice, 2012). Victims of violent crime numbered 4.9 million in 2008 (Rand, 2009). In addition to the emotional and physical toll violence takes on people, violence is also very costly. According to Matson and Klaus (2008), victims of all crime lost approximately $1.5 billion in 2006. Victims of violent crime lost nearly $1.5 billion in the same year. Over 25 percent of the victims of violent crime lost at least six days from work.

Gender role conflict theory (GRC) has been used to examine the causes of violence (Mahalik, 1997; Pleck, 1981, 1995). Gender role conflict theory examines the sociopsychological factors and influences on men and the notion of masculinity in a sexist and patriarchal society (O'Neil, 1981a & b). O'Neil, Good, and Holmes (1995) define gender role conflict as follows:

   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 personal restriction, devaluation, or
   violation of others or self. … 
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