A new study finds that millennial men are redefining gender roles and their associated characteristics. Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada quizzed 630 men about what they perceive as male characteristics, and the results were surprising.
The participants, ages 15 to 29, valued more openness, empathy, and health more than strength and independence. Hence, the myth of the strong, silent type being a traditional model of male behavior has been kicked to the curb.
"Young Canadian men seem to be holding masculine values that are distinctly different from those of previous generations," lead author John Oliffe, a nursing professor who leads the men's health research program at the University of British Columbia, said. "These values may run counter to long-standing claims that young men are typically hedonistic, hyper-competitive, and that they risk or neglect their health."
The most highly-regarded trait was generosity with 91 percent of the participants saying men should help others, while 80 percent believed giving back to the community was vital. Another 88 percent believed men should be open to new ideas, experiences, and people and 78 percent believed men should be independent.
Still, traditional male characteristics abounded in the study. Eighty-six percent believed health, physical fitness and attractiveness were important and 75 percent believed men should also be physically strong. Still, 87 percent valued intellectual and emotional intelligence and strength.
The study, which was published in Psychology of Men & Masculinity, showed health – not wealth – were greater indicators of success. “Being fit and healthy was a status for them, to prove themselves as men,” said Nick Black, managing partner at Intentions Consulting. “As gender roles have become more equal, men [were more concerned] about taking care of themselves and being physically attractive.”
The study's only weakness was its lack of comparison. Oliffe says the study did not compare the participants to Generation X and Baby Boomers, so there is no concrete evidence that the generations vary as much as believed. “It was probably talked about in terms of chivalry. It may be that we’re talking about the same kinds of things, but the language and packaging is different,” he said. "What it shows is that those guys are willing to articulate these values, whereas previous generations may not have been able to."
Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, are the generational demographic that follows Generation X and precedes Generation Z. Most demographers and researchers believe millennials were born between the early 1980s to the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Millennials are often considered "echo boomers" since they are frequently the children of the baby boomers. Millennial characteristics include an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, digital technologies and social media. In a 2012 Time magazine article, it was estimated that there are approximately 80 million millennials in the US, and according to the United States Census Bureau, using birth dates from 1982 to 2000, there are an estimated 83.1 million millennials in the US.