Gender role strain is the stress related to experience with a gender role. A lot of research has been conducted in the gender role strain paradigm, and it has been a great way to explain some of the physical and psychological problems that many men encounter. Pleck (1995) proposed three types of strain:

(1) Discrepancy Strain

The person unsuccessfully meets traditional gender role standards

(2) Trauma Strain

This occurs after experiencing a traumatic event or process during socialization into the traditional masculine gender role

(3) Dysfunction Strain

When fulfillment of a gender role is hazardous

A classic example is a man who has taken on some aspects of Levant’s traditional American gender role, and is experiencing moderate levels of depression. If he decides to seek help though this, he may experience discrepancy strain. If he decides not to seek help because “men need to be able to tough it out,” he is experiencing dysfunction strain. If part of the depression is related to having a tough, authoritarian father who socialized him into the more traditional gender role, then he may be experiencing trauma strain. The specific patterns of negative outcomes related to this are covered in the next section.


  • Pleck (1995). The gender role strain paradigm: An update. In Levant & Pollack (Eds.) New Psychology of Men. New York: Basic.