Hypervulnerable youth in a hypermasculine world: A critical analysis of hypermasculinity in African American adolescent males

Pamela C Zamel, University of Pennsylvania


African American youth occupy one of the most precarious locations in the quest for manhood in that they must tackle the arduous task of proving their manhood, while simultaneously denied access to the very tools that would allow them to do so. While “invulnerability training” is endemic to masculine socialization, and most males demonstrate signs of hypermasculinity, Black youth's demonstrations of such are frequently pathologized. This mixed-method study was conducted to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of hypermasculinity and its relationship to the existential vulnerabilities of African American adolescent males living in an urban environment. The 72 participants ranged in age from 10 to 18 years (M = 14.57; SD = 2.01) A qualitative study was conducted using videotaped recordings of participants recollecting personal life events in an all-male peer therapy session. Correlations were assessed in quantitative analyses to examine relationships between hypermasculinity and self-reported emotional vulnerability. In addition, three hierarchical multiple regression equations were conducted to determine whether hypothesized groupings of vulnerability variables accounted for a significant proportion of variance in each of the hypermasculinity factor scores. The major finding of this study is that the majority of hypermasculine responses expressed by youth were preceded by shame markers and resulted when the youth's capacity to manage the affective component of a particular incident was exceeded by the distress caused by the event. The presence of anger and distress affect often distinguished masculine from hypermasculine responses to stimuli, and analysis of contextual cues revealed perceived threats to one's self-worth and/or sense of power surrounding hypermasculine responses. Results from correlation and regression analyses supported these findings. Significant correlations were found between hypermasculinity and Trait Anger factor scores. Regression results indicated that although boys' depressed mood and cognitive distortions explained some variance in hypermasculinity, the proportion explained exclusively by the anger expression factors was invariably substantial and the greater proportion of variance explained. Implications of the study and suggestions for interventions with African American males were discussed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Social studies education

Recommended Citation

Zamel, Pamela C, "Hypervulnerable youth in a hypermasculine world: A critical analysis of hypermasculinity in African American adolescent males" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3138096.