Masculinity and Counseling with Young, Non-Collegiate Men: A Phenomenology

Open Access
Reed, Eva Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Counselor Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 18, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Jerry G Trusty, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jerry G Trusty, Committee Chair
  • Dr Spencer G Niles, Committee Member
  • Jolynn Carney, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • mental health
  • counseling
  • masculinity
  • gender
  • sex roles
Much research has been conducted on young men attending college and instruments have been developed based on quantitative data from this population. There is little information, however, about young non-collegiate men. Nearly half of the 1.5 million men completing high school in the U.S. in 2007 elected not to pursue college upon completion of high school, yet these men are underrepresented in the literature. This study focused on young, straight, non-collegiate men in order to address gaps in the literature. Information about the ways young non-collegiate men define and express masculinity and the contexts in which these men function were investigated to inform research and counseling interventions with this population. Interviewing, journaling, and observation were included in this phenomenological study to explore the experiences of participants. This research employed snowball sampling in order to address the experiences and needs of an underrepresented group. Snowball sampling is a method of increasing the sample size of a study by having existing participants recruit additional participants from among their acquaintances. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six straight non-collegiate men aged 18 to 24 who shared perceptions of masculinity and reflected on their socialization and reactions to counseling. Findings were grouped according to characteristics and expectations of men, interactive contexts, and counseling perceptions. All participants characterized men as emotionally reserved, protective and supportive, privileged, sexually motivated, honorable, and goal oriented. Four themes emerged around social expectations, including prestige and recognition, providing for a family, adherence to traditional gender roles, and avoidance of femininity. Participants reported having different interactions with men and women that extended to different contexts. In counseling, participants wanted counselors who were trustworthy and relatable. Participants spoke about counseling as a resource that could be utilized to solve problems in cases where individuals were unable to do so independently. Participants unanimously reported that friends (male and female) would understand if participants were to engage in counseling, although four acknowledged stigmatization of counseling. Study limitations and theoretical and implications for counseling are discussed, as well as the transferability of findings to other populations.