There are specific patterns of negative consequences that emerge for men during their experience with gender role strain. These patterns are well researched and referred to as “gender role conflict” (GRC; O’Neil, 2008). For example, many men restrict their emotions. This may have positive consequences such as the ability to stay cool in a crisis situation, but a disadvantage would be the inability to emotionally connect in a relationship. The man may experience some gender role strain if he does express feelings in the relationship, and the loneliness and detachment that may following this choice is the gender role conflict.

O’Neil (2008) breaks down different types of gender role conflict in this way (quoted directly):

a) GRC within the man

Private experience of negative emotions and thoughts experienced as gender role devaluations, restrictions, and violations.

b) GRC expressed toward others

Men’s expressed gender role problems that potentially devalue, restrict, or violate someone else.

c) GRC experienced from others

Men’s interpersonal experience of gender role conflict from people interacted with that result in being personally devalued, restricted, or violated.

d) GRC experienced from role transitions

Gender role transitions are events in a man’s gender role development that alter or challenge his gender role self-assumptions and consequently produce GRC or positive life changes

O’Neil (2008) defined devaluations, restrictions, and violations this way:

“Gender role devaluations are negative critiques of self or others when conforming to, deviating from, or violating stereotypic gender role norms of masculinity ideology. Devaluations result in lessening of personal status, stature, or positive regard.”

“Gender role restrictions occur when confining others or oneself to stereotypic norms of masculinity ideology. Restrictions result in controlling people’s behavior, limiting one’s personal potential, and decreasing human freedom.

“Gender role violations result from harming oneself, harming others, or being harmed by others when deviating from or conforming to gender role norms of masculinity ideology. To be violated is to be victimized and abused, causing psychological and physical pain. (O’Neil, 2008, p.363).”

Overall, research has shown that GRC is often related to larger problems including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, low self-esteem, violence, and a variety of other undesirable things. It is possible to reduce or minimize the negative effects of GRC by (a) recognizing it, and (b) becoming more flexible in attitudes and behavior. Using the previous example of the man in the relationship, he may not be very emotionally expressive in other parts of his life but he could learn to be emotionally expressive in his relationship.


  • O’Neil (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, 38, 358-445