Deciding on Couple Therapy: The Role of Masculinity in Relationship Help-Seeking

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Abstract

Research documents that men “drag their feet” when it comes to seeking couple therapy. Masculine gender role socialization is one explanation for men’s reluctance to seek professional help for relationship problems. This study sought to extend the relationship help-seeking literature by applying the theory of planned behavior (Azjen, 2012) within a SEM alternative model testing framework to examine how specific aspects of traditional masculinity are linked with men’s intention to seek couple therapy in a community-dwelling adult sample (N = 292). Men reporting stronger endorsement of self-reliance and emotional control norms reported more negative attitudes and subjective norms around couple therapy. Men perceiving greater concrete barriers to seeking couple therapy also reported less perceived behavioral control of seeking help. In addition, past experience with couple therapy was linked with more positive attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. In turn, attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control all accounted for variance in intention to seek couple therapy. Bootstrap analysis of indirect effects showed that attitudes and perceived behavioral control, but not subjective norms, acted as mediators between distal variables (e.g., masculine norms) and the intention to seek couple therapy.

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