Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Gender Role Conflict Research 30 Years Later: An Evidence-Based Diagnostic Schema to Assess Boys and Men in Counseling

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Gender Role Conflict Research 30 Years Later: An Evidence-Based Diagnostic Schema to Assess Boys and Men in Counseling

Article excerpt

In 1981, a special issue on counseling men was published in the Journal of Counseling & Development (Scher, 1981). The special issue established, for the first time in the counseling profession, that restrictive gender roles can cause negative psychological consequences for men. In one article, "Patterns of Gender Role Conflict and Strain: Sexism and Fear of Femininity in Men's Lives (O'Neil, 1981b)," a conceptual model depicted six patterns of men's gender role conflict (GRC) resulting from restrictive gender roles. Over the years, this model helped counselors conceptualize men's gender role problems (O'Neil, 1981 a, 1990, 2006, 2008, 2010). The article's main point was that GRC can be psychologically dysfunctional for all people, and empirical research is needed to assess whether this assumption is a reliable fact. Furthermore, the article recommended that empirical research should assess whether the patterns of GRC in the conceptual model correlated with negative psychological outcomes for men. From 1981 to 1983, the Gender Role Conflict Scale (GRCS) was empirically developed to assess whether GRC is associated with men's psychological and interpersonal problems. Using factor analyses, four patterns of GRC were empirically derived. The GRCS was subsequently published in the journal Sex Roles (O'Neil, Helms, Gable, David, & Wrightsman, 1986) and became one of the early and subsequently most used measures of men's gender role problems.

This article summarizes what is currently known about men's GRC, over 30 years after the first model was published (O'Neil, 1981b). It differs from past reviews (O'Neil, 2008, 2010; O'Neil, Good, & Holmes, 1995) by focusing on research that informs therapeutic practice with men. A diagnostic schema is presented to assess men's GRC in the contexts of gender role devaluations, restrictions, and violations. The studies from the GRC research program that supports this diagnostic schema are summarized. Recommendations are made for using this evidenced-based schema and empowering men to develop a more positive and healthy masculinity.

Definitions and GRC Paradigm

An extensive and full definition of GRC is beyond the scope of this article and can be found elsewhere (O'Neil, 2008, 2010; O'Neil, Good, & Holmes, 1995; O'Neil, Helms, Gable, David, & Wrightsman, 1986). GRC is defined as a psychological state in which socialized gender roles have negative consequences for the person or others. GRC occurs when rigid, sexist, or restrictive gender roles result in restriction, devaluation, or violation of others or self (O'Neil et al., 1995). The ultimate outcome of GRC is the restriction of a person's human potential or the restriction of another person's potential. GRC can be experienced intrapersonally (within self) or interpersonally when it is expressed toward others or when it is caused by others. For men, the personal experience of GRC represents the negative consequences of conforming to, deviating from, or violating the gender role norms of masculinity ideology. Three personal experiences of GRC are gender role devaluations, gender role restrictions, and gender role violations. GRC is operationally defined by four psychological domains and numerous situational contexts (O'Neil, 2008, 2010). The domains, contexts, and experience of GRC represent the complexity of GRC in people's lives.

Figure 1 shows the major concepts in the GRC paradigm. In the center of Figure 1, men's gender role socialization and the masculinity ideology and norms are shown as conceptually related to men's fear of femininity. Masculinity ideology and norms are primary values and standards that define, restrict, and negatively affect boy's and men's lives. Reviews of the masculinity ideology studies (Levant & Richmond, 2007; O'Neil, 2010; O'Neil & Crapser, 2011) indicate that restrictive ways of thinking about masculine norms are significantly correlated with men's psychological problems and interpersonal conflicts. …

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