To Reconstruct or Deconstruct? A Fundamental Question for the Psychology of Men and Masculinities

Document Type



Efforts at social change have long been central to the psychological study of men and masculinities (PSMM) as a field. However, these efforts have been hampered by the absence of a coherent, unifying philosophical framework linking science to social practice or explicitly articulated guiding values. In this article, we argue that current social change efforts in PSMM can be characterized as attempts to either reconstruct or deconstruct masculinities. Reconstruction consists of attempts to modify or create more prosocial meanings of masculinities. Deconstruction, in contrast, consists of attempts to reduce or attenuate the psychological impact of masculinities on human behavior. We describe their practical application and review research support for each approach—including relevant recent clinical science research on cognitive restructuring and cognitive defusion. We then present functional contextualism as a coherent philosophy linking science to social practice that can be used by researchers and clinicians to evaluate when to pursue reconstructionist and/or deconstructionist approaches. We provide psychotherapy and public health campaign case examples to illustrate how researchers and clinicians might use a functional contextualist framework to evaluate the merits of reconstructionist and deconstructionist approaches, before closing by suggesting directions for future research.

Impact Statement:
This article describes two different approaches to science and practice focused on masculinities: efforts to reconstruct masculinities and efforts to deconstruct masculinities. The authors argue that the utility of these approaches is context-dependent and requires clarifying philosophical assumptions and guiding values.

Publication Title

Psychology of Men and Masculinity

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cognitive defusion, cognitive restructuring, functional contextualism, masculinities, positive masculinity