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Sunderland launches world’s first male psychology module

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Published on 09 September 2020

Male Psychology
Male Psychology

Male psychology looks at the thinking, emotion and behaviour of men and boys and the factors which have an impact on them.  

Sunderland has launched the undergraduate Stage 3 module to shed new light in this area and aims to inform a new generation of psychologists in ways that will provide practical and theoretical value.  

With men and boys representing the majority of suicides, homelessness, addiction, imprisonment and educational underachievement in society, the module has been designed to create a better understanding of their gendered needs and examine the underlying issues, leading to appropriate psychological interventions that benefits all.  

Sunderland’s School of Psychology Dr Rebecca Owens developed the new module, which has national support through the Male Psychology Network, and has been featured in a recent article by the new Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (BPS). 

She explained: Research suggests men have an innate, often unconscious desire to appear strong and invulnerable, and society has often encouraged this too. However, there is an increasing awareness of men’s vulnerabilities, the humanity of masculinity, and we need to keep up the momentum to promote awareness, understanding and support for men.  

I have been involved in male psychology research for a while now, and I am on the BPS Male Psychology Section Committee, so I have a vested interest in this area. However, as I was researching perceptions of psychology as a discipline, it became apparent that psychology is primarily perceived as a feminine subject, which can be off-putting to male applicants. This, alongside the notion of ‘toxic masculinity’, which we critique, and the overlooked issues affecting men and boys, we felt a Male Psychology module was timely.

Male psychology is a recent development in academia, first highlighted by UK consultant clinical psychologist Martin Seager in 2010. It values any perspectives – including biological factors - that can help in the understanding of the psychology of men and boys. 

Sunderland’s module looks at a basic ‘template’ in which men and women develop and interact with their environment. It examines why men and women are predisposed to experience many things differently, and how these differences are embodied. 

The module will also explore the concept of masculinity from cross-cultural and comparative perspectives and challenge the recent notion that masculinity is inherently toxic. 

Sex differences in the experience of trauma, and how trauma is managed will also come under the microscope. 

This module will consider the impact of gender roles and stereotyping in mental health. For example, if men are seen as interested only in uncommitted sexual relations, how much empathy exists when it comes to the long-term mental health impact of involuntary childlessness on men? 

Also, if men are seen as dominant, aggressive, assertive and power-seeking, how does this stereotype impact the way society views male victims of intimate partner violence? 

Dr Helen Driscoll, Principal Lecturer and Team Leader for Psychology, also an evolutionary psychologist, explained: “My PhD was in sex differences in aggression and violence. Through that, I learned that, like women, men are frequently victims of intimate partner violence, yet male victimisation largely remains an invisible issue in society, where men are typically always viewed as the perpetrators. This led me to an interest in some of the hidden issues facing men, and the need for psychology as a discipline to pay attention to those issues. The new BPS Male Psychology Section is an important development, and at Sunderland, we wanted to harness this momentum in the discipline of psychology, and give our students the opportunity to study the unique psychological issues facing men 

The core textbooks for the module include the 'Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health', and a forthcoming textbook ‘Perspectives in Male Psychology.’ 

Stage three students choosing this module will begin a critical introduction to male psychology this September, including guest lectures from members of the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society, and authors of The Handbook of Male Psychology. 

The BSc Psychology degree programme recently achieved a 91% Overall Satisfaction rating from its students in the 2020 National Student Survey.