Previous scholarship shows that cisgender women are more likely to have confidants than cisgender men and that the latter are more likely to have confidants outside the family and keep spheres (e.g., friends versus family) separate. Growing evidence shows these confidant patterns shift in older age. A common though untested explanation for these patterns is that gender ideologies preconfigure how people seek confidants. We address the lack of direct tests by analyzing a cohort of 5487 U.S. older women and men from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Survey, which administered the Hegemonic Masculinity for Older Men Scale. We find that men have significantly lower odds than women do of having any confidant and of having both friends and family members as confidants. Among men, greater endorsement of hegemonic masculinity significantly lowered both odds. Of those with only one confidant type, women were more likely than men to nominate a family member over a friend. Among men, their endorsement of hegemonic masculinity was unrelated to their likelihood of nominating a family member over a friend. Findings show support for, but also the limitations of, assuming gender ideology explains confidant patterns. Future scholarship can work toward addressing how hegemonic masculinity inhibits social relations, particularly in older age.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abelson, M. (2019). Men in place: Trans masculinity, race, and sexuality in America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Anthony, D. L., Campos-Castillo, C., & Horne, C. (2017). Toward a sociology of privacy. Annual Review of Sociology, 43(1), 249–269. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-060116-053643.
Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42(2), 155–162. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0036215.
Bookwala, J. (2017). Confidant availability (in)stability and emotional well-being in older men and women. The Gerontologist, 57(6), 1041–1050. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnw108.
Bookwala, J., Marshall, K. I., & Manning, S. W. (2014). Who needs a friend? Marital status transitions and physical health outcomes in later life. Health Psychology, 33(6), 505–515. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000049.
Bowman, J. M. (2008). Gender role orientation and relational closeness: Self-disclosive behavior in same-sex male friendships. Journal of Men’s Studies, 16(3), 316–330. https://doi.org/10.3149/jms.1603.316.
Bridges, T., & Pascoe, C. J. (2014). Hybrid masculinities: New directions in the sociology of men and masculinities. Sociology Compass, 8(3), 246–258. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12134.
Broussard, K. A., Warner, R. H., & Pope, A. (2018). Too many boxes, or not enough? Preferences for how we ask about gender in cisgender, LGB, and gender-diverse samples. Sex Roles, 78(9–10), 606–624. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0823-2.
Bruckner, E., & Knaup, K. (1993). Women’s and men’s friendships in comparative perspective. European Sociological Review, 9(3), 249–266. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.esr.a036680.
Burt, R. S. (1992). Structural holes: The social structure of competition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Chen, H., Cohen, P., & Chen, S. (2010). How big is a big odds ratio? Interpreting the magnitudes of odds ratios in epidemiological studies. Communications in Statistics - Simulation and Computation, 39(4), 860–864. https://doi.org/10.1080/03610911003650383.
Cheng, S., Leung, E. M. F., & Chan, T. W. S. (2014). Physical and social activities mediate the associations between social network types and ventilatory function in Chinese older adults. Health Psychology, 33(6), 524–534. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000026.
Chua, V., Mathews, M., & Loh, Y. C. (2016). Social capital in Singapore: Gender differences, ethnic hierarchies, and their intersection. Social Networks, 47, 138–150. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2016.06.004.
Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94, S95–S120. https://doi.org/10.1086/228943.
Collins, P. H. (2004). Black sexual politics. New York: Routledge.
Connell, C. (2010). Doing, undoing, or redoing gender? Learning from the workplace experiences of transpeople. Gender & Society, 24(1), 31–55. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243209356429.
Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & Society, 19, 829–859. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243205278639.
Cornwell, B. (2011). Independence through social networks: Bridging potential among older women and men. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 66B(6), 782–794. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbr111.
Cornwell, B. (2015). Social disadvantage and network turnover. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 70(1), 132–142. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbr111.
Cornwell, B., & Laumann, E. O. (2011). Network position and sexual dysfunction: Implications of partner betweenness for men. American Journal of Sociology, 117(1), 172–208. https://doi.org/10.1086/661079.
Cottingham, M. D. (2014). Recruiting men, constructing manhood: How health care organizations mobilize masculinities as nursing recruitment strategy. Gender & Society, 28(1), 133–156. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243213509005.
Croghan, C. F., Moone, R. P., & Olson, A. M. (2014). Friends, family, and caregiving among midlife and older lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults. Journal of Homosexuality, 61(1), 79–102. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2013.835238.
de Vries, B., & Megathlin, D. (2009). The meaning of friends for gay men and lesbians in the second half of life. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 5, 82–98. https://doi.org/10.1080/15504280802595394.
Dean, A., Kolody, B., & Wood, P. (1990). Effects of social support from various sources on depression in elderly persons. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 31(2), 148–161. https://doi.org/10.2307/2137169.
Desmond, M. (2012). Disposable ties and the urban poor. American Journal of Sociology, 117(5), 1295–1335. https://doi.org/10.1086/663574.
Fiori, K. L., Antonucci, T. C., & Akiyama, H. (2008). Profiles of social relations among older adults: A cross-cultural approach. Ageing and Society, 28(2), 203–231. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X07006472.
Fischer, C. S., & Oliker, S. J. (1983). A research note on friendship, gender, and the life cycle. Social Forces, 62(1), 124–133. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/62.1.124.
Fleming, P. J., Barrington, C., Perez, M., Donastorg, Y., & Kerrigan, D. (2014). Amigos and amistades: The role of men’s social network ties in shaping HIV vulnerability in the Dominican Republic. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 16(8), 883–897. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2014.919028.
Galdas, P. M., Johnson, J. L., Percy, M. E., & Ratner, P. A. (2010). Help seeking for cardiac symptoms: Beyond the masculine–feminine binary. Social Science & Medicine, 71(1), 18–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.03.006.
Gettler, L. T., & Oka, R. C. (2016). Aging US males with multiple sources of emotional social support have low testosterone. Hormones and Behavior, 78, 32–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2015.10.003.
Gillespie, B. J., Lever, J., Frederick, D., & Royce, T. (2015). Close adult friendships, gender, and the life cycle. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32(6), 709–736. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407514546977.
Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380. https://doi.org/10.1086/225469.
Herz, A., & Petermann, S. (2017). Beyond interviewer effects in the standardized measurement of ego-centric networks. Social Networks, 50, 70–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2017.01.003.
Hirayama, R., & Walker, A. J. (2011). Who helps older adults with sexual problems? Confidants versus physicians. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 66B(1), 109–118. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbq021.
Iveniuk, J. (2018). Social networks, role-relationships, and personality in older adulthood. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 74(5), 815–826. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbx120.
Jacobs, J. A., & Gerson, K. (2016). Unpacking Americans’ views of the employment of mothers and fathers using national vignette survey data: SWS presidential address. Gender & Society, 30(3), 413–441. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243215597445.
Kane, D. (2011). The gendered transition to college: The role of culture in ego-network evolution. Poetics, 39(4), 266–289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2011.05.003.
Lamont, E. (2015). The limited construction of an egalitarian masculinity: College-educated men’s dating and relationship narratives. Men & Masculinities, 18(3), 271–292. https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X14557495.
Marks, N. F. (1996). Flying solo at midlife: Gender, marital status, and psychological well-being. Journal of Marriage & Family, 58, 917–932. https://doi.org/10.2307/353980.
McDonald, S., & Mair, C. A. (2010). Social capital across the life course: Age and gendered patterns of network resources. Sociological Forum, 25(2), 335–359. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1573-7861.2010.01179.x.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Brashears, M. E. (2006). Social isolation in America: Changes in core discussion networks over two decades. American Sociological Review, 71(3), 353–375. https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240607100301.
Meerwijk, E. L., & Sevelius, J. M. (2017). Transgender population size in the United States: A meta-regression of population-based probability samples. American Journal of Public Health, 107(2), e1–e8. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303578.
Mencken, F. C., & Winfield, I. (2000). Job search and sex segregation: Does sex of social contact matter? Sex Roles, 42(9), 847–864. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007046416523.
Messerschmidt, M. (2010). Hegemonic masculinities and camouflaged politics. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.
Migliaccio, T. (2009). Men’s friendships: Performances of masculinity. Journal of Men’s Studies, 17(3), 226–241. https://doi.org/10.3149/jms.1703.226.
Moen, P. (2001). The gendered life course. In R. H. Binstock & L. K. George (Eds.), Handbook of aging and the social sciences (pp. 179–196). San Diego: Academic Press.
Pascoe, C. J. (2007). Dude, you’re a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school. Oakland: University of California Press.
Pedulla, D. S., & Thébaud, S. (2015). Can we finish the revolution? Gender, work-family ideals, and institutional constraint. American Sociological Review, 80(1), 116–139. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122414564008.
Pepin, J. R., & Cotter, D. A. (2018). Separating spheres? Diverging trends in youth’s gender attitudes about work and family. Journal of Marriage and Family, 80(1), 7–24. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12434.
Pfeffer, C. (2017). Queering families: The postmodern partnerships of cisgender women and transgender men. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pleck, J. H., Sonenstein, F. L., & Ku, L. C. (1993). Masculinity ideology: Its impact on adolescent males’ heterosexual relationships. Journal of Social Issues, 49, 11–29. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1993.tb01166.x.
Pudrovska, T. (2010). Why is cancer more depressing for men than women among older white adults? Social Forces, 89(2), 535–558. https://doi.org/10.1353/sof.2010.0102.
Pudrovska, T., & Carr, D. (2008). Psychological adjustment to divorce and widowhood in mid- and later life: Do coping strategies and personality protect against psychological distress? Advances in Life Course Research, 13, 283–317. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1040-2608(08)00011-7.
Reigeluth, C. S., Pollastri, A. R., Cardemil, E. V., & Addis, M. E. (2016). “Mad scared” versus “I was sad”: Emotional expression and response in urban adolescent males. Journal of Adolescence, 49, 232–243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.03.004.
Ridgeway, C. L., & Smith-Lovin, L. (1999). The gender system and interaction. Annual Review of Sociology, 25(1), 191–216. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.191.
Rook, K. S., Luong, G., Sorkin, D. H., Newsom, J. T., & Krause, N. (2012). Ambivalent versus problematic social ties: Implications for psychological health, functional health, and interpersonal coping. Psychology and Aging, 27(4), 912–923. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029246.
Schafer, M. H. (2013). Structural advantages of good health in old age: Investigating the health-begets-position hypothesis with a full social network. Research on Aging, 35(3), 348–370. https://doi.org/10.1177/0164027512441612.
Schwab, J. R., Addis, M. E., Reigeluth, C. S., & Berger, J. L. (2015). Silence and (in)visibility in men’s accounts of coping with stressful life events. Gender & Society, 30(2), 289–311. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243215602923.
Schrock, D., & Schwalbe, M. (2009). Men, masculinity, and manhood acts. Annual Review of Sociology, 35, 277–295. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-070308-115933.
Schilt, K. (2010). Just one of the guys?: Transgender men and the persistence of gender inequality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Schwartz, E., & Litwin, H. (2018). Social network changes among older Europeans: The role of gender. European Journal of Ageing, 15(4), 359–367. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-017-0454-z.
Small, M. L. (2013). Weak ties and the core discussion network: Why people regularly discuss important matters with unimportant alters. Social Networks, 35(3), 470–483. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2013.05.004.
Snell, W. E., Miller, R. S., Belk, S. S., Garcia-Falconi, R., & Hernandez-Sanchez, J. E. (1989). Men's and women's emotional disclosures: The impact of disclosure recipient, culture, and the masculine role. Sex Roles, 21(7), 467–486. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00289098.
Springer, K. W., & Mouzon, D. M. (2019). One step toward more research on aging masculinities: Operationalizing the hegemonic masculinity for older men scale (HMOMS). The Journal of Men’s Studies, 27(2), 183–203. https://doi.org/10.1177/1060826518806020.
Thébaud, S., & Pedulla, D. S. (2016). Masculinity and the stalled revolution: How gender ideologies and norms shape young men’s responses to work-family policies. Gender & Society, 30(4), 590–617. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243216649946.
Thompson, E. H., Grisanti, C., & Pleck, J. H. (1985). Attitudes toward the male role and their correlates. Sex Roles, 13(7), 413–427. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287952.
Ueno, K., Wright, E. R., Gayman, M. D., & McCabe, J. M. (2012). Segregation in gay, lesbian and bisexual youth's personal networks: Testing structural constraint, choice homophily and compartmentalization hypotheses. Social Forces, 90(3), 971–991. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sor022.
Wenger, G. C., & Jerrome, D. (1999). Change and stability in confidant relationships: Findings from the Bangor longitudinal study of ageing. Journal of Aging Studies, 13(3), 269–294. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0890-4065(99)80097-8.
Westbrook, L., & Saperstein, A. (2015). New categories are not enough: Rethinking the measurement of sex and gender in social surveys. Gender & Society, 29(4), 534–560. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243215584758.
Wooldridge, J. M. (2010). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data (2nd ed.). Cambridge: MIT Press.
The authors would like to thank Alex Bryan, DaJuan Ferrell, Kristen Springer, two anonymous reviewers, and the editor for their helpful comments throughout the writing process. The research uses data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 1991, the WLS has been supported principally by the National Institute on Aging (AG-9775 and AG-21079), with additional support from the Vilas Estate Trust, the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. A public use file of data from the WLS is available from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1180 Observatory Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706 and at http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wls/data/. The interpretations, opinions, and inferences based on the data are solely the responsibility of the authors.
Conflicts of Interest
Human Participants and/or Animals
Exempt from IRB review.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Campos-Castillo, C., shuster, s.m., Groh, S.M. et al. Warning: Hegemonic Masculinity May Not Matter as Much as You Think for Confidant Patterns among Older Men. Sex Roles 83, 609–621 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-020-01131-3
- Measuring sex and gender
- Gender ideology
- Social networks