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Warning: Hegemonic Masculinity May Not Matter as Much as You Think for Confidant Patterns among Older Men

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Celeste Campos-Castillo.

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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

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Keywords

  • Measuring sex and gender
  • Gender ideology
  • Masculinity
  • Aging
  • Social networks
  • Confidants
  • Privacy
  • Disclosure