If there is one constant in life, it is change. While every generation must navigate societal changes, I am seeing that millennial men (those born from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s) who lack a strong sense of self—and are unclear about their role in the future— are manifesting symptoms that appear to be due to shifts in gender roles.
Men build their masculine identity by mirroring other men. The drive for a boy to prove himself as masculine often begins during adolescence, when boys succumb to the pressures of precarious manhood.1 Unfortunately, many learned stereotypical masculine traits are not as readily accepted in our society as men approach adulthood, which potentially causes disconnects and challenges in building relationships later in life.
For example, previous generations of men have been criticized for not being in touch with their emotions or being unable to connect emotionally in their relationships. Millennial men who are attempting to change this culture, however, are being met with criticism from women who are complaining that they are weak.2 The resulting confusion can be extremely disruptive.
Clinicians must remain ever vigilant and aware of how gender stereotypes are deeply embedded in American culture—despite what may appear on the surface. Whether it is displayed in alcoholism, indifference, or acts of violence, the impact of male depression in the millennial generation is far reaching. Fortunately, it can be properly addressed by a knowledgeable therapeutic partner.
1. Newsom, J. S. (Producer). (2015). The mask you live in [Motion picture]. United States: The Representation Project.
2. Wells, J. (2016, March 16). Millennial men have gone soft—but it’s not our fault. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/millennial-men-have-gone-soft--but-its-not-our-fault.