Women in the fire service : investigating the influence of conformity to masculine gender role norms and perceived social support on trauma symptomology




Smith, Emily Rose

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Research on masculinity has typically paid little attention to how masculine gender socialization affects women. Gender socialization is particularly important to understand within highly-masculinized occupations, such as the fire service, in which women are subjected to frequent negative experiences such as coworker hostility, the silent treatment, close and punitive supervision, and sexual harassment. These negative experiences may lead to a reduction in female firefighter’s perceived levels of social support. The stress-buffering model of social support highlights the critical role perceptions of social support play in an individual’s appraisal of their ability to cope with stressors and subsequent use of coping skills. It is crucial to understand variables that influence female firefighter’s perceptions of social support and its relationship to trauma symptomology. Masculine gender role conformity of female firefighters is likely to influence interactions within the male-dominated environment, resulting in relationships between masculine gender vii conformity and perceived social support at work. This study explored the relationship between conformity to masculine norms (CMN) and trauma symptom severity (TSS), as assessed by the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory – 46 (CMNI-46) and PTSD Civilian Checklist – 5 (PCL-5) respectively, and further sought to investigate whether the association between CMN and TSS is mediated by perceived social support (PSS). This study also investigated CMN amongst female firefighters in comparison to that of normative data samples of women. Data were collected through self-report questionnaires distributed to all active-duty female firefighters employed by two large municipal fire departments in the Southwestern region of the United States. The mediated model was assessed using the PROCESS macro by Hayes (2013) and indicated support for the overall model (β = -.132, SE = .061, CI = -.266, -.026), and the significant indirect effect (b = - 0.132) indicated that PSS mediated the relationship between CMN and TSS. Results from the CMNI-46 indicated significant differences in CMN between this sample of female firefighters and samples of women from previous studies. These findings indicate conformity to gender roles has significant indirect effects on the health of women in the fire department and highlight the importance of social support for the wellbeing of female firefighters


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