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Gender Role Conflict, Traditional Masculinity Ideology, and Help-Seeking Experiences of Substance Dependent Men: A Mixed Methods Study



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Traditional masculinity ideology, and the degree to which any given individual subscribes to the tenets of this ideology, has significant impact on the help-seeking experiences of men, and by extension, the health and wellness of men, and correspondingly that of their family and loved ones. (O’Neil, 2008, Addis & Mahalik, 2003) Traditional masculinity prescribes certain behaviors for men that are not supportive of the act of seeking help for problems faced. One of the health outcomes associated disproportionately with men is substance dependence. Many men suffer in silence. This study explored, via a mixed-methods, convergent parallel multiple case study, the lived experiences of men from this population who have navigated the help-seeking experience and found themselves in an inpatient residential program designed to treat substance dependence. Three questions were posed: 1) how do substance-dependent males housed in an inpatient residential treatment facility describe their experiences of help seeking, 2) what forms of gender role strain or conflict may be present for these participants, and 3) to what extent might their identification with traditional masculine ideologies and gender roles impact their help seeking behaviors? Six participants completed a semi-structured interview, as well as a 37-item questionnaire, the Gender Role Conflict Scale (GRCS-I), designed to measure the construct of gender role conflict. Results yielded a deeper understanding of the experience of men from this population who have been faced with the prospect of seeking help, in terms of both the risk and protective factors that have either prevented, or supported the act of help-seeking. Data obtained via the GRCS-I indicated that the participants indeed experience significant levels of gender role conflict, and data collected via semi-structured interviews suggested that this conflict impacts help seeking behavior. A number of themes and sub-themes emerged with respect to the research questions identified. Atheoretical themes related to the first research question included psychological or emotional responses to the prospect of help-seeking (denial, rock bottom, guilt, shame, and regret, epiphany), past experiences as risk or protective factors, help seeking as a restorative or preventative act, and resilience. Evidence suggesting that traditional masculinity ideology had impacted the help-seeking behaviours of the participants was most profound in terms of congruence with several traditional masculinity/help-seeking paradigms, including the Blueprint for Manhood (David & Brannon, 1976), confirmatory and compensatory use (Williams & Ricciardelli, 1999), the five psycho-social processes associated with men and help seeking (Addis & Mahalik, 2003), and positive masculinity (Levant & Wimer, 2014). Clinical implications include that the findings of the study provide evidence that the inclusion of psycho-educational component dealing with masculinity and help-seeking in substance dependence treatment programs would be important to consider. Opportunities for future research are discussed with respect to the need for larger studies, continued qualitative approaches, as well as a focus on identifying mediating and moderating variables that serve to define the help-seeking experiences of substance dependent men.



gender role conflict, masculinity, help-seeking, substance dependence



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Educational Psychology and Special Education


School and Counselling Psychology


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