Griffith, D. M., & Cornish, E. K. (2016;2018;). “What defines a man?”: Perspectives of african american men on the components and consequences of manhood. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(1), 78-88.
What it means to be man is shaped by racial, ethnic, and cultural factors. In this paper, we explore what determines and comprises middle-aged and older African American men’s definitions of manhood. Using a thematic approach, we examined the semantic differences noted in the verbs chosen to define a man, the characteristics that were most important to how they saw themselves, and the characteristics that were most important to them to portray to others. Analyzing data from 64 interviews with urban African American men 35–76 from the Southeastern United States, we found that manhood was a concept that reflected key characteristics and traits, demonstrated deeper qualities or attributes, and revealed their inherent nature or character. While previous research sought to identify attributes of manhood that defined adult African American males, the current study was conducted to characterize how middle-aged and older African American men defined manhood and its key components through exploring how they wanted to see themselves and what traits they wanted to portray to others. What a man is or should be was defined by attributes that reflected a foundation of character that not only exemplified gendered values, goals, and roles, but that also demonstrated religious and cultural values and beliefs. For these men, manhood was more than a compilation of traits but a reflection of who they were at a deeper level. These ideals were rooted in an amalgamation of gendered ideals, cultural norms, religious doctrine and beliefs, and age-related priorities.
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