Andrew Smiler, Ph.D.

America's leading expert on the masculine self

Statistical Properties of Gender Measures Chapter

Andrew Smiler

This is a chapter published in the Handbook of Gender in Psychology, which was edited by Joan Chrisler and Don McCreary.  I got to know Joan when she was editor of the journal Sex Roles and was kind enough to allow me to put together a special issue on “Manifestations of Masculinity.”  I gotten to know Don because of his research on men’s Body Image and his involvement in SPSMM.

In this chapter, colleague Marina Epstein and I reviewed the statistical properties of 36 different survey measures of gender.

Why? Knowing about measures related to gender is important for two reasons.  First, all measures contain assumptions (because in order to measure something, you have to define it).  Second, there are over 1,000 published measures of gender-related phenomenona, according to Carole Beere’s 1990 index, but we don’t know of any published reviews that say “this measure is statistically sound” or “this measure has some problems.”  Third, I was asked to write it (and that’s way cool).

We put the measures in four categories:

1. Measures that tell how much/little an individual meets or conforms to or supports (American) conceptions of masculinity and femininity. This group of measures is devoted to measuring how feminine and/or how masculine an individual is.  Some scales give separate measures for femininity and masculinity, some measure either femininity or masculinity but not both, and some give a single score to determine femininity vs. masculinity.  This section includes measures of personality traits (such as Sandra Bem’s Sex Role Inventory and Spence & Helmreich’s Personal Attributes Questionnaire), measures of ideological beliefs (such as Jim Mahalik’s Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory and Tolman & Porche’s Adolescent Masculinity in Relationships Scale),  measures of behavior (such as Zucker’s Gender Identity Scale), and measures that examine the messages an individual received about gender roles while growing up.

2. Measures in this group that assume that conforming to a gender role causes some type of stress.  In essence, these scales assume that by trying to be masculine or feminine, an individual will experience some difficulty.  Examples of these scales include Jim O’Neil et al’s (Masculine) Gender Role Conflict scale.

3. Measures related to sexism and feminism. These are measures that are related to women’s inferior status in US society.  (And although that’s gotten better over the last 40 years, I don’t think we’ve reached an egalitarian state.)  This group of scales includes Spence & Helmreich’s Attitudes toward Woman Scale, Glick & Fiske’s Benevolent Sexism Scale, and Swim et al’s Modern and Old-Fashioned Sexism scales.  It also includes scales that how much sexism a woman has experience, and scales that assess the extent of a feminist identity.

If you want to know which scales we think have good statistical properties and which ones need some work, you’ll need to read the chapter. :)