Do Black men adopt “traditional masculinities?”

In “A meta-study of black male mental health and well-being,” featured in the August 2010 issue of the Journal of Black Psychology, Dr. Watkins and colleagues explored the mental health and well-being of Black males. One of the most provocative findings from the meta-study were the qualitative studies that addressed traditional masculinities among Black males. Below is an excerpt from the publication. A copy of the article can be obtained via the “publications” page of this website:

Though our meta-study findings did not speak to whether Black men adopt traditional masculine ideologies, we did uncover findings that challenge the rationale for why Black men may endorse more traditional masculine behaviors than White men. For example, our findings suggest that the educational and economic status of Black men may shape their adherence to traditional and nontraditional masculine behaviors more than their lack of access to the White-dominated power structure (Ravenell et al., 2006; Royster et al., 2006; Warfa et al., 2006; Watkins et al., 2007). Hegemonic masculinity (Hearn, 2004)— the normative cultural and ideological beliefs about what it means to be a man in the United States—and other factors associated with gender, therefore, may be as important to understanding Black men’s mental health outcomes as the role of race and cultural racism (Jones, 1997). Due to the cultural importance of the intersection of race and gender, there is a need to consider how race and the historical context influence the multiple hegemonic masculinities that may influence Black men’s mental health outcomes (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005; Smiler, 2004). Stoic behaviors and other culturally appropriate responses to stress may be a barrier to care for Black men (Kendrick et al., 2007; Royster et al., 2006; Watkins & Neighbors, 2007; Watkins et al., 2007); and for men in general, alcohol and tobacco use, comfort food, and illegal drug use may be behavioral responses to stress that are also perceived as beneficial for helping to manage stress (Jackson & Knight, 2006).

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