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Social pressure to be masculine can make younger men aggressive

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New York, Jan 29 (IANS) If your masculinity is threatened by ‘be a man’, you are more likely to be aggressive as a new study suggests that younger men whose sense of masculinity depends heavily on other people’s opinions can be aggressive.

The study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, indicates that the more social pressure a man feels to be masculine, the more aggressive he may be.

“When those men feel they are not living up to strict gender norms, they may feel the need to act aggressively to prove their manhood — to ‘be a man’,” said researcher Adam Stanaland from Duke University in the US.

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For the study, the team conducted a pair of studies with 195 undergraduate students and a random pool of 391 men aged 18 to 56.

Study participants were asked a series of questions about “gender knowledge.” For men, these included questions on such stereotypical topics such as sports, auto mechanics and home repair. After answering, participants were randomly told their score was either higher or lower than that of an average person of their gender.

To simulate real-world threats to manhood, men who received a low score were also told they were “less manly than the average man.”

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Men whose sense of masculinity came from within seemed unruffled by receiving a low score. It was a different story for men with a more fragile sense of masculinity, whose feelings of masculinity relied on others. That group included men who said they behaved “like a man” due to social pressures such as the desire to fit in, be liked or get dates.

Men with a more fragile sense of masculinity responded to the word fragments by creating words with violent associations rather than neutral meanings. For instance, when provided with the letters “ki” and asked to complete the word, they wrote “kill” rather than, say, “kiss.” When given the letters “blo,” they typed “blood” instead of a word such as “blow” or “bloom.”

Those aggressive responses were strongest among the youngest study participants, men between 18 and 29 years old.

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Female students did not display a similar aggressive response when their gender was threatened.

–IANS

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