Abstract: A Masculinity and Mental Health Scale for Young Black Men: Findings from an Exploratory Factor Analysis (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

A Masculinity and Mental Health Scale for Young Black Men: Findings from an Exploratory Factor Analysis

Friday, January 12, 2018: 2:29 PM
Liberty BR Salon K (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Natasha Johnson, Graduate Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Redford, MI
Daphne Watkins, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, An arobr, MI
Objective: Gender is an important social determinant of health, as men who fail to live up to the expectation placed on their gender may be more subjected to mental health problems. Dissecting men’s mental health challenges us to recognize that masculinity emerges at the intersection of a series of interwoven social formations that include historic, economic, political, interpersonal, and psychological threads. For instance, studies have suggested that young Black men (ages 18-30) are more likely to subscribe to traditional definitions of masculinity (e.g., strength, control, and independence) and that traditional masculine ideals are unattainable for Black men due to the material constraints of race and the American culture. Furthermore, subscribing to traditional masculinity is counterproductive when men are confronted with mental health conditions that need professional attention. This paper presents preliminary results from an exploratory factor analysis that examined young Black men’s agreement with items from a new scale developed to understand the associations between men’s mental health and their definitions of masculinity.

Methods: The sample included participants (n=144) from the Young Black Men, Masculinities, and Mental Health (YBMen) Project. The YBMen Project is a mental health education and social support program for young black men who are transitioning to adulthood (18+). The Masculinity and Mental Health (MMH) scale includes 6 items on a 4-point Likert scale (1-strongly disagree to 4-strongly agree). Participants were asked to rate the extent to which they agreed with masculinity and mental health statements. Sample items included: “Coming across as a strong man makes me feel mentally healthy” and “Others will think negatively of me if I am not mentally healthy”.

Results: Factor analyses were used to assess the psychometric properties of the MMH scale. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy statistic was .641 (recommended value is 0.6+) and the Bartlett’s test of sphericity was statistically significant (χ2 (15) = 196.12, p < .001). Three factors were extracted from the six items and explained 58% of the total variance, with two items on each factor. Items that loaded onto Factor 1 related to the belief that coming across as a “strong man” and mentally healthy were interconnected. Items loaded to Factor 2 related to absolution beliefs about masculinity and mental health. Factor 3 consisted of items related to negative perceptions from others based on masculinity performance and mental health.

Conclusion: Social determinants that lead to poor mental health for Black males begin early in their lives, progress to and through adulthood, and are associated with increased mental health challenges. Central to this research is the fact that Black men are less likely than Black women and White men and women to seek professional help for mental health challenges. Some scholars think the reason lies partly in the concept of traditional masculine norms and their association with mental health outcomes. Findings from this exploratory factor analysis moves us closer to valid and reliable measures that can best capture young Black men’s self-reported perceptions about the ways their mental health is associated with their definitions of masculinity.