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Posted 06.20.05

MU Study Debunks Stereotypes of Italian Men

Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano: In Touch with Their Feelings? Italian Men Show Fewer Characteristics of American Masculinity, Study Shows

COLUMBIA, MO -- Over the years, Hollywood and the media have created an American stereotype of Italian males as patriarchal, macho, violent and domineering, the type of Mafioso image presented in The Sopranos and The Godfather. However, a new study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that Italian males actually endorse fewer of the masculine characteristics than American men. This research will help make mental health professionals more aware of gender stereotypes and assist them in treating certain patients.

"This study calls into question prevalent American stereotypes of Italian men and emphasizes the need for much more research to better understand male role socialization within and across cultures," said Glenn Good, MU professor of educational, school and counseling psychology, who conducted the study along with MU graduate student David Tager.

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Good and Tager examined 152 Italian males from public universities in Rome and Palermo, Italy. The participants filled out surveys that examined 11 masculine characteristics: winning, emotional control, risk taking, violence, power over women, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, primacy of work, disdain for homosexuality, and pursuit of status. The researchers compared their findings to another study that examined 752 American men from across the country who filled out a similar survey.

The researchers found that the Italian men reported significantly lower adherence to nine of the 11 masculine norms. There was no significant difference between Italians and Americans on the pursuit of status norm. The only norm that Italian males endorsed significantly higher than American students was the playboy norm, which supports the stereotype of the flirtatious and emotional Italian male vying for the attention of a woman.

Good and Tager were surprised by the Italian males' lesser endorsement of disdain for homosexuals and power over women. These results, Good said, seemed counter-intuitive in light of Italy's much more hidden gay and lesbian community and its greater disparity between men and women positions of power.

"It may be that, in general, Italian males feel less threatened by the gay and lesbian community because this community is less visible than in the United States," Good said. "As for the power over women, Italian males may not perceive themselves as having power over women because of the traditional power of women within the Italian family structure."

The study will appear in an upcoming issue of Psychology of Men and Masculinity.

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