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The Man Box

Attitudes to manhood among young Australian men

The Man Box (published 2018) is the first comprehensive study focusing on the attitudes to manhood and the behaviours of young Australian men aged 18 to 30.

The research sought to understand the pressures young men experience around being a ‘real man’ by asking them whether they felt pressure to comply with ‘Man Box’ social rules – for example, to be strong, stoic, in control, to not back down from threats, to use violence to get respect, to be a breadwinner, and to have many sexual partners. It asked 1,000 young Australian men whether they perceive or personally agree with these Man Box rules, and examined the influence that endorsing these rules had on the lives of young men and those around them.

Key findings
  • The majority of young men surveyed agree there are social pressures on them to act a certain way because of their gender.
  • The majority of young men surveyed disagreed with the Man Box beliefs, but there is still a large number who agree with some of the beliefs that make up the Man Box.
  • Young men who most strongly agree with these rules report poorer levels of mental health, engage in risky drinking, are more likely to be in car accidents, and are more likely to report committing acts of violence, online bullying and sexual harassment.
  • Living up to the pressures of being a ‘real man’ causes harm to young men and those around them, particularly women.
  • We need action in the form of new programs to improve men’s health, wellbeing and safety and benefit the whole community.

Unpacking the Man Box

How attitudes to manhood predict behaviour among young Australian men

The Unpacking the Man Box report (published 2019) builds on the findings of The Man Box report, and uncovers how attitudes towards masculinity impacts behaviour. Unpacking the Man Box is based on a survey of 1000 young Australian men aged 18 to 30.

Download the full report

Unpacking the Man Box finds adherence with Man Box beliefs has a stronger impact on whether young men will use violence, sexually harass women, or experience mental ill-health than other factors including their education levels, where they live, or their cultural heritage.

The report includes a range of recommendations to support young men to break free of the man box, live healthy lives and be their best selves.

The Adolescent Man Box

Key findings

The Adolescent Man Box extends The Man Box research to a younger age group, assessing the level of societal messaging about Man Box rules towards adolescents, as well as the extent to which adolescent boys accept or endorse these rules.

The report found four pillars of masculinity (the Adolescent Man Box rules), reflecting the following values:

  • Constant efforts to be manly: the norm that boys must maintain a strong and confident persona in order to appear manly.
  • Emotional restriction: assumptions about masculinity involving the hiding of emotions and remaining emotionally invulnerable.
  • Heterosexism: representing traditional ideas around masculinity as being in opposition to behaviours traditionally considered feminine.
  • Social teasing: attitudes around the proposal that to be masculine boys must be able to tease their friends and stand up to such teasing when it is directed at them.
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