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Integr Psychol Behav Sci. 2009 Jun;43(2):126-37. doi: 10.1007/s12124-008-9085-4. Epub 2009 Jan 7.

When a man thinks he has female traits--constructing femininity and masculinity: methodological potentials and limitations.

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Frances L. Hiatt School of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01610-1477, USA.


In everyday life, people are confronted with common beliefs about how women and men differ from each other. These beliefs make them wonder about their personal femininity and masculinity. But what hides behind these constructs? In this article, we will discuss the potential and limitations of different definitions. We will focus on methodological issues which can trigger new discussions about the social implications of gender differences-which are not part of this paper. One of the major questions here is whether it is methodologically justifiable (legitimate) to make individual predictions based on group differences. An issue that is not only relevant in regards to femininity and masculinity. In general, all definitions of masculinity and femininity show more limitations than potentials. They are either neglecting certain sub-groups or are based on stereotypes (either displaying common beliefs or exaggerated group differences). Individual predictions derived from these constructs are questionable due to oversimplification/reductionism (e.g., when forming groups). By pointing out that constructs like femininity and masculinity can in fact limit an individual's development, it is suggested to clearly differentiate between different types of differences and to clearly state what can and cannot be said when "measuring" an individual's masculinity and femininity. Since femininity and masculinity can be seen as example constructs, and generalizations are part of many research processes, general implications beyond these concepts are being discussed.

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