Does Masculinity Pressure Lead to Increased Violence?

Silhouette of man hitting a punching bagMen who perceive themselves to be less masculine—compared to prevailing social standards of masculinity—may be more likely to engage in violent behavior, according to a new study published in Injury Prevention.

The Link Between Perceived Masculinity and Violent Behavior

Men are generally responsible for more fatally violent incidents than women are. According to the United States Department of Justice, men accounted for nearly 90% of homicide offenders between 1980 and 2008. Men who believe they are not masculine enough are more likely to binge drink, engage in aggressive driving, drive while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and carry weapons, the study’s authors claim. This kind of risk-taking behavior could lead to violent incidents.

Researchers were interested in exploring ways to reduce the violence that may be associated with the masculine gender role. For the study, Dr. Dennis Reidy and his colleagues from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of violence prevention surveyed 600 American men ranging in age from 18 to 50. The men answered questions about their self-image, their history of violent or risky behavior, and their perceptions of male gender.

Men who felt less masculine than average, believed others saw them as less masculine, and expressed concerned about their masculinity were more likely to report engaging in violent assaults using a weapon and assaults resulting in injury to someone else.

Men who did not feel highly masculine—but were not concerned about it—had lower rates of violence and were less likely than all other groups to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

What is Masculine Role Discrepancy Stress?

Reidy and his colleagues argue that masculine role discrepancy stress may help explain the increase in violence when men feel insecure about their masculinity. This stress occurs when men are aware of masculine gender norms but are insecure about their ability to live up to them. The study’s authors suggest that modifying the social construction of gender norms, including the pressure to conform to them, might help reduce the rates of male violence.


  1. Cooper, A., & Smith, E. L. (2011, November). Homicide trends in the United States, 1980-2008 [PDF]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  2. Preidt, R. (2015, August 25). Men Who Feel Less Masculine May Be More Violent, Study Finds. Retrieved from
  3. Reidy, D. E., Berke, D. S., Gentile, B., & Zeichner, A. (2015). Masculine discrepancy stress, substance use, assault and injury in a survey of US men. Injury Prevention. doi:10.1136/injuryprev-2015-041599

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  • Brad

    August 31st, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    I suppose that this makes sense, like they era trying to make up for something that they feel like they are lacking but at the same time it doesn’t quite make sense because you would probably initially think that those who perceive themselves as more masculine would be the ones who would have more violent tendencies.

  • sally

    August 31st, 2015 at 2:28 PM

    aaahhh they do all of these stupid things like drink or use drugs to get their courage up and then end up committing these horrible mistakes as a result of being inebriated or impaired.

  • Kris

    September 2nd, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    Sadly, I think that the more pressure that man feels to be a man, whatever that means, then the more likely that it will be that they will exhibit this sort of violence. I don’t think that it should be this way, but when thy feel that kind of pressure from all sides, then this is one of the common reactions that they may have. So maybe what needs to happen is that society as a whole has to do more to change our collective mindset about what it means to “be a man” and just understand that there is going to be a different version of this for everyone, and that we have to be understanding of what those differences actually are.

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