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A Mixed-Methods Study of the Health-Related Masculine Values Among Young Canadian Men

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Masculinity frameworks in men’s health research have focused on masculine ideals and norms to describe men’s health practices. However, little attention has been paid to inductively deriving insights about what constitutes health-related masculine values among young men. A sequential exploratory mixed-methods design, comprising a qualitative lead to derive health-related masculine values with a follow-up quantitative arm to test the items, was used

Drawing on a sample of 15–29-year-old Canadian male interview participants (n = 30) and survey respondents (n = 600), 5 health-related masculine values were highlighted: (a) selflessness, (b) openness, (c) well-being, (d) strength, and (e) autonomy. Selflessness was characterized by caring for and helping others.

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The ‘manhood act’ perspective might provide a useful framework for the analysis of gender inequalities in health, using a life course approach. Our article highlights the importance of social representation in the public sphere in shaping masculinity. The way in which power relations are shaped and are at the root of gender inequalities has been described extensively in the literature; this reinforces the relevance of analysing not only the acts of the ‘builders of masculinity’ in a given context, but also how the notions and behaviours that constitute the meanings of masculinity are subject to change over time. From the perspective of a critical explanatory framework of men's health that is focused on ‘manhood acts’, the joint consideration of ‘practice’ and ‘performativity’ – in the terms described by Pierre Bourdieu and Judith Butler – may reinforce the relevance of studying how daily acts are gendered and socially located, and this could provide new insights in future research into how inequalities in health are embodied by men and women within a society. Some recent literature has emphasized that a key factor in advancing the understanding of men's health is located in the development of gendered epidemiology, so that through this we can begin to unpack how men's health practices can be mechanisms for ‘doing gender’. With regard to this, our findings might improve the interpretation of epidemiological data in our particular context. In addition, the approach taken in this article, by directing attention to how men perform ‘manhood acts’, may facilitate awareness both of the complexity of the links between men, masculinity, and health, and of the norms, power dynamics, and practices that perpetuate health inequalities. We consider that the health sector can play a key role in the processes of social engineering to address these disparities. In this sense, it is important that health professionals are as responsive to the singular needs of men (and women) as they are to the gender-based barriers faced by them with regard to their health. In the same way, our findings suggest that although the practitioners have an important role in promoting male access and use of health care services, this engagement should go beyond simply giving attention to preventive physical health and lifestyle advice. It should address wider issues related to gender norms and social practices that perpetuate inequalities; that is, promoting responsible fathering and parenting, engaging men as caregivers, addressing gender-based violence, and so on. Thus, in order to increase the effectiveness of programmes and interventions that promote the questioning of attitudes and behaviours related to ‘unhealthy masculinity’, policies must facilitate the integrated development of gender that is mainstreamed into different social settings, without forgetting the health care system.

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Much of the broader work on socialization and masculinity has focussed on quantitative measures of masculinity and masculine ideology across a diverse array of topics and issues (Thompson & Bennett, 2015). Three well-known instruments developed by psychologists to measure different aspects of masculinity are the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory (CMNI), the Male Role Norms Inventory (MRNI), and the Gender Role Conflict Scale (GRCS). Factor analytic methods have shown that the CMNI-46, MRNI-short form and the GRCS-short form assess distinct masculinity constructs as intended by the scale developers (Levant, Hall, Weigold, & McCurdy, 2015). For the CMNI-46 and the MRNI-short form, statistical analyses also indicated these two measures have validity in assessing a general underlying factor or broad masculinity construct, as represented by the total scale scores (degree of conformity to traditional masculine norms, and degree of endorsement of traditional masculine ideologies, respectively) (Levant et al., 2015). The GRCS also has good validity and reliability and convergent validity with other masculinity measures (O’Neil, 2008). A vast body of research supports GRC theory and use of the GRCS

Overall, the work confirms that restricted masculine roles and gender role conflict contributes to negative psychological health for men and boys (O’Neil, 2008).Characterized by different methodologies, a core distinction between social constructionist and socialization approaches has been the debate over masculinity as an external relational social construct versus an interior trait or individual characteristic. Despite this ontological and epistemological divide, empirically there has been consensus among social constructionist and socialization men’s health researchers that masculinity is contextual and fluid rather than being entirely good or bad for the health of men.

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Altogether, highlighting the interdependency of these domains, exploratory factor analysis yielded 2 overarching reliable quantitative dimensions characterized by domains of being inclusive (openness and selflessness; α = .88) and empowered (well-being and autonomy; α = .85). Some inductively derived and pilot-tested values ran counter to long-standing claims that young men are typically hedonistic, hypercompetitive, and estranged from self-health. Study findings are discussed detailing how the evaluation of specific health-related masculine values in subgroups of men might advance masculinities-focused men's health research and inform the next generation of targeted gendersensitized services.

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O’Neil, J. M. (2008). Summarizing 25 years of research on men’s gender role conflict using the Gender Role Conflict Scale: New research paradigms and clinical implications. The Counseling Psychologist, 36, 358–445.

Levant, R. F., Hall, R. J., Weigold, I. K., & McCurdy, E. R. (2015). Construct distinctiveness and variance composition of multi-dimensional instruments: Three short-form masculinity measures. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62(3), 488.

Robinson, C.A., Bottorff, J.L., Pesut, B., Oliffe, J.L., & Tomlinson, J. (2014). The male face of caregiving: A scoping review of men caring for a person with dementia. American Journal of Men’s Health, 8(5), 409-426. doi:10.1177/1557988313519671

Rowlands, S. & Gough, B. (2016). Promoting nutrition in men’s health. In J. M. Rippe (Ed.), Nutrition in lifestyle medicine (pp. 311-328). Berlin, Germany: Springer.

Sabin, J. & Kirkup, K. (2016). Competing Masculinities and Political Campaigns. In Wagner, A. & Everitt, J. (Eds.) Mediation of Gendered Political Identities. Vancouver: UBC Press.

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