To investigate the role of masculine norms on attitude towards seeking professional help, three hundred and twenty-one heterosexual Australian males participated in an online study. The measures were Male role gender inventory scale and the Attitudes toward Seeking Professional Help Scale, which were designed to see how participants would score on each scale. It was hypothesized that the specific subscales restrictive emotionality, self-reliance and dominance obtained from the inventory will each have a negative relationship with attitude towards help seeking behaviour. Overall the findings were significant and supportive of the hypotheses.
Many professional help services such as psychological services, medical help, and other specialized services are widely and easily available for people to access, and yet, a great amount of research shows that men are less likely to seek professional help and very reluctant to obtain help too (Addis & Mahalik, 2003). One of the many underlying reasons for this being that, unlike women, men share a more negative attitude towards seeking professional help (Gonzalez, Alegria & Prihoda, 2005).
Mahalik et al. (2003) further described how customary masculine norms, states that men should be strong, stoic and able to hide emotions. They should be controlled, should not show vulnerability, and as help seeking can be perceived as a weakness, it also negative associates with being vulnerable and therefore, the outlook on seeking professional help is often frowned upon (Pederson & Vogel, 2007).
For decades, many researchers have been investigating the underlying causes for the negative attitude concerning help seeking behaviours from men. With most studies focusing on male gender role conflict. Gender role conflict (GRC) refers to how socialised gender roles have undesirable consequences for others (O’Neil, 2015). In this case, it is the socialised view on masculinity and what is considered normal behaviour for men that is the results in male GRC (Pederson & Vogel, 2007). Some masculine norms include, emotional restraint, which means to not express certain emotions, dominance therefore being in control and self-reliance which means avoiding asking for help from professionals, and attempting to solve problems by themselves (Mahalik et al., 2003), all of which may contribute to help seeking behaviours.
A study conducted by Pederson and Vogel (2007) investigated the relationship between gender role conflict and attitude towards seeking helping. 575 undergraduate male students were recruited, and the results obtained from the study indicated that men facing greater pressure of gender role conflict resulting from masculinity norms had a more negative outlook on help seeking behaviours.
Furthermore, to see the role of masculine norms on help seeking attitudes in a more diverse sample, Vogel, Heimerdinger-Edwards, Hammer and Hubbard (2011), conducted a study by recruiting 4773 men from multiple populations. Whilst different ethnic and racial groups all had different results in terms of the strength of relationship between masculine norms and help seeking attitude, the overall finding were supportive of the fact that masculine norms do have an impact on attitude towards seeking help.
Whilst previous studies have included both heterosexual and homosexual male participants, the current study focuses mainly on heterosexual males. The present study aims to investigate the relationship between masculine norms and attitude towards seeking help. More specifically, the relationship between restrictive emotionality, self-reliance and dominance on help seeking behaviour. It can be hypothesised that that higher scores in restrictive emotionality can cause lower scores in attitude towards seeking professional help. Therefore, if a male is unlike to express emotions, they are most likely to have negative attitudes towards seeking help, however, if they score greater on the scale, showing they can express feelings easily, then they may share more positive attitudes towards seeking help. Likewise, participants who scored lower on self-reliance will show negative attitudes towards help seeking behaviour and participants who score higher on the attitude scale with score lower for dominance. Hence, each masculinity norm may have a negative relationship with attitude towards help seeking.
The current study was an online study where the design was correlational, therefore a non-experimental design. The study consisted of two variables; attitude towards seeking help and masculinity norms. Furthermore, a random sample of participants are used to ensure generalizability of the online study results.
Participants were 321 heterosexual males from Australia, obtained from a sample of 335 participants, as 14 participants were excluded to achieve a homogenous sample of only heterosexual males. The participants were recruited through convenience sampling, as third year students from the social psychology unit at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) first completed the survey, and then was asked to recruit two more male participants to complete the online study. Furthermore, age varied from 18 years old to 77 years old, with an average age of 29.15 years (SD = 10.99 years).
The current study consisted of three measures which were accessed on a computer. The first measure consisted of two questions, which determined participant characteristics. The questions included I am: Male, Female or Other and I am: ____ years old (on my last birthday). Participants were also asked what their sexual orientation was. In asking for participants gender and sexual orientation, it allowed the researcher to only include data from heterosexual males, and exclude the rest.
The second measure was Male Role Norms Inventory – Short Form (MRNI-SF), which is comprised of seven subscales with three item each, giving a total of 21 items. Responses for each subscale is composed of a 7-point Likert type scale, where 1 indicates strongly disagreeing to an item, and 7 representing strongly agree. For example, for the subscale representing Restrictive Emotionality (RE), there were three items; “A man should never admit when others hurt his feelings”, “Men should be detached in emotionally charged situations” and “Men should not be too quick to tell others they care about them” (Levant, Hall & Rankin, 2013).
The last measure used was an Attitudes toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale – Short Form (ATSPPH-SF). This scale involved 10 items, with a 4-point Likert-type scale, with 1 being disagree and 4 interpreting agree. For scoring, items 2, 4, 8, 9 and 10 were reverse scored and the ratings were added to get a sum. Higher scores are indicative of more positive attitudes towards seeking helps compared to lower scores. (Whittlesey, 2001; Fischer & Farina, 1995).
Participants from Australian Catholic University (ACU) were given access to the online study through a link, which the students the shared to the two extra participants. Participants were debriefed about the study and further instructions were on the online study. Subjects were first asked to answer the questions to determine participant characteristics, followed by the MRNI-SF. Participants then completed the ATSPPH-SF Scale.
Pearson correlations were used to explore the relationship between the subscales of the MRNI-SF and the attitude towards seeking help. Results of the Pearson correlation indicated that there was a moderate negative correlation between attitudes towards seeking help and restrictive emotionality, r = -0.484, n = 321, p < 0.01.
There was a weak negative correlation between attitudes towards seeking help and self-reliance, r = -0.306, n = 321, p < 0.01. There was also a weak negative correlation between attitudes towards seeking help and dominance, r = -0.308, n = 321, p < 0.01. Furthermore, Cronbach’s alpha coefficients were calculated to test reliability. The restrictive emotionality subscale from the MRNI-SF appeared to have a good internal consistency = 0.826. The self-reliance subscale exhibited high reliability = 0.892 and the Cronbach’s alpha for the dominance subscale was also found to have a high internal consistency, = 0.912.
The aim of the current study was to investigate whether there is a negative relationship between restrictive emotionality and attitude towards help seeking, self-reliance and help seeking behaviours and lastly between dominance and help seeking. This was done by employing two scales, the MRNI-SF and the ATSPPH-SF. The findings illustrate significant negative correlations for all three of subscales of the MRNI-SF with attitude towards seeking professional help. This supports the hypothesis, that lower scores in restrictive emotionality, dominance and self-reliance results in higher scores in the ATSPPH-SF, therefore indicating a negative relationship between the variables. Furthermore, the results show high internal consistency therefore showing the three items for each subscale in the MRNI-SF show high reliability.
The present study is consistent with previous research, as it shows similar results to prior research. It is consistent with Pederson and Vogel (2007) study, as both studies show how men avoiding seeking professional help is a result of male gender roles and masculinity norms. Although, unlike some previous research, which considered other reasons for attitudes toward help seeking behaviour (Pederson & Vogel, 2007), the current study only focused on the masculine norms. It was further consistent with the study conducted by Vogel, Heimerdinger-Edwards, Hammer and Hubbard (2011).
A potential limitation of the study is that given it is a correlational study, it does not imply causation. Furthermore, as the sample only contained heterosexual male participants, it is hard to generalize to the whole male population. Furthermore, the tasks involved could have been repetitive, for example, the MRNI-SF, consisted of twenty-one questions all of which were to be responded with seven point Likert-type scale. This could cause participants to experience fatigue effects like tiredness or boredom, as the scale is repetitive.
The aim of the current study was to investigate the relationship between masculine norms and attitude towards seeking professional help, moreover, the results from the study support the hypotheses. Although consistent with prior research, the study however gave an opening for further testing to be done, as future studies could focus on a more effective way to generalize to the whole male population. Furthermore, future studies should also investigate female participants to compare results and have another group to compare with.
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- Gonzalez, J., Alegria, M., & Prihoda, T. (2005). How do attitudes toward mental health treatment vary by age, gender, and ethnicity/race in young adults? Journal of Community Psychology, 33(5), 611-629.
- Mahalik, J. R., Locke, B. D., Ludlow, L. H., Deimer, M. A., Scott, R. P. J., Gottfried, M., & Freitas, G. (2003). Development of the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 4, 3–25. doi:10.1037/1524-9126.96.36.199
- O’Neil, J. (2015). Men’s gender role conflict : Psychological costs, consequences, and an agenda for change (First ed.).
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- Vogel, D. L., Heimerdinger-Edwards, S. R., Hammer, J. H., & Hubbard, A. (2011). “Boys don’t cry”: Examination of the links between endorsement of masculine norms, self-stigma, and help-seeking attitudes for men from diverse backgrounds. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(3), 368.