Small man syndrome really does exist, US government scientists have found. Sometimes called the Napoleon complex, small man syndrome supposes that men who feel the least masculine seek power, war and conquest to make up for their physical shortcomings.
Their research showed that men who feel they are not sufficiently masculine are at risk of committing violent acts. Although it is traditionally supposed that macho men are the most prone to aggression, in fact men who feel that they do not fit gender stereotypes are equally as dangerous.
Researchers at the US Centres for Disease Control, in Atlanta, Georgia, say men can suffer from “male discrepancy stress” caused by the feeling that they fall short of traditional masculine gender norms. And it appears to make them more prone to violence than men who feel comfortable in their own skin.
They analysed the responses to an online survey of 600 US men aged between 18 and 50 in 2012. The men were asked about their perceptions of male gender, their own self-image, and behaviour such as drug taking, violence and crime.
The men who considered themselves less masculine than average and experienced male discrepancy stress were nearly three times more likely to have committed violent assaults with a weapon or assaults resulting in injury to the victim.
There was no association between discrepancy stress and daily use of alcohol or drugs, but men who felt less masculine, but were not worried about it, were the least likely to report violence or driving while under the influence.
“This might suggest that substance use/abuse behaviours are less salient methods of demonstrating traditional masculinity in contrast to behaviours related to sex and violence, perhaps due to the potentially private nature of the substance use habit,” said the researchers.
“These data suggest that efforts to reduce the risk of men’s behaviour resulting in injury should, in part, focus on how masculine socialisation and acceptance of gender norms might induce distress in boys and men,” they conclude.
Last year a study by Oxford University in the UK concluded that smaller people sometimes feel paranoid, mistrustful and more likely to think that people are staring at them or talking about them behind their back.