A new study suggests that men’s insecurities about relationships and their conflicted views of women as romantic partners and rivals could lead some to adopt sexist attitudes about women.
For the study, a research team led by Joshua Hart, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Union College, surveyed more than 400 heterosexual men to gauge their responses to questions about their relationship attachment style, hostile and benevolent sexism, and views on romance.
Attachment style refers to the way people relate to others in the context of intimate relationships, defined by two personality traits — attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance, the researchers explained. Both traits reflect different kinds of relationship insecurities; people who are low in both traits are considered secure.
Hostile sexism depicts women as mean-spirited foes who aim to dominate men, the researchers noted. Benevolent sexism regards them as objects of adoration and affection, but also fragile and needy of chivalrous treatment.
The study found that anxiously attached men tend to be ambivalent sexists — both hostile and benevolent — while avoidantly attached men typically endorse hostile sexism, while rejecting benevolent sexism.
“In other words, anxious men are likely to alternate between chivalry and hostility toward female partners, acting like a knight in shining armor when she fulfills his goals and ideals about women, but like an ogre when she doesn’t,” Hart said.
“Avoidant men are likely to show only hostility without any princely protectiveness.”
The survey results also showed that anxiously attached men tend to be romantics at heart who adopt benevolently sexist beliefs, while avoidantly attached men lean toward social dominance, he said, noting that, in turn, leads them to embrace hostile sexism.
The findings highlight how personality traits could predispose men to be sexists, according to Hart. This information could help couples build stronger relationships, particularly during therapy, he added.
The study was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a peer-reviewed journal.
Source: Union College