Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Philip Wong

Committee Chair and Members

Philip Wong, Chair

Sara Haden

Matthew Morrison


Aggression, Avoidance, Fragile masculinity, Gender role stress, Narcissism, Shame


The overwhelming representation of males in physically aggressive acts and violent crime suggests that masculinity contributes to the gender discrepancy. Fragile masculinity, a term denoting the cultural mandate and the individual’s perception that manhood is precarious, has been posited as particularly meaningful in understanding the etiology of aggression and relational avoidance in men. Empirical work suggests that there is a link among these constructs (Vandello, 2013), but the literature has not fully explored variables that may inform or impact these connections. Based on psychodynamic theories of narcissism, shame and aggression, this study aimed to empirically test their impact. Mediation and moderation analyses were conducted to better understand the role of fragile masculinity, narcissism, and shame in contributing to enactments of aggression and avoidance of relationships, and they proved to be significant. In a random sample (n = 302) of males in the United States, strong evidence demonstrated a mediating effect of narcissism, including grandiose and vulnerable narcissism as well as entitlement rage, between fragile masculinity, and trait aggression, state aggression, as well as relational avoidance. A bootstrapping procedure confirmed the significance of mediation effects. Further, half of the male participants (n = 153) listened to a shame inducing audio scenario, and the other half (n = 149) listened to a neutral scenario to determine if those who are currently experiencing state shame would endorse higher state aggression. State shame moderated the association between entitlement rage and state aggression. Results suggest that the combination of fragile masculinity with narcissism and state shame is critical to consider in prevention and treatment of aggression and relational avoidance.