Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 7/8, April 2005 (
Development of the Conformity to Feminine
James R. Mahalik,
Elisabeth B. Morray,
Larry H. Ludlow,
Suzanne M. Slattery,
and Andrew Smiler
This article describes the construction of the Conformity to Feminine Norms Inventory
(CFNI), which was designed to assess women’s conformity to an array of feminine norms
found in the dominant culture in the United States. In addition, we present four studies in
which the psychometric properties of the CFNI were examined. In Study 1, factor analysis in-
dicated that the CFNI is comprised of eight distinct factors labeled as Nice in Relationships,
Thinness, Modesty, Domestic, Care for Children, Romantic Relationship, Sexual Fidelity,
and Invest in Appearance. Results from Study 2 indicated that the CFNI has strong internal
consistency estimates and differentiates college women from college men. In addition, Study
2 demonstrated that the CFNI Total score and subscale scores relate to Bem Sex Role In-
ventory and Feminist Identity Development Scale scores in theoretically consistent patterns.
Study 3 indicated that the CFNI Total score and several of the subscales signiﬁcantly and
positively relate to scores on the Eating Disorder Inventory. Finally, Study 4 demonstrated
that the CFNI Total score and subscale scores have high test-retest estimates for a 2–3 week
period. The discussion focuses on potential uses of the CFNI, limitations to the study, and
suggestions for future research.
KEY WORDS: femininity; gender roles; women; feminine norms.
Gender role norms share the characteristics of
social norms, which are described as “rules and stan-
dards that are understood by members of a group,
that guide and/or constrain social behavior without
the force of laws” (Cialdini & Trost, 1999, p. 152).
For example, social agents such as parents, teach-
ers, peers, and the media teach women and men the
rules and standards of femininity and masculinity,
respectively (Bem, 1981a; Lytton & Romney, 1991;
Meth, 1990). Research conﬁrms that this learning oc-
curs very early in life, as evidenced by ﬁndings that
by age 5 children have already developed clearly de-
ﬁned notions of what constitutes appropriate behav-
ior for men and women (see Lytton & Romney, 1991,
Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
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for a review). Gender role norms also provide guid-
ance for women and men about how they are sup-
posed to act, think, and feel, as well as constrain
women and men from certain behaviors that are “off
limits” (Gilbert & Scher, 1999). Like other social
norms, gender role norms are typically maintained by
the reinforcement or punishment of social responses
(Locksley & Colten, 1979).
We also know that gender role norms are impor-
tant in the lives of women and men in that they foster
identity development (e.g., Bem, 1981a; Chodorow,
1978; Kagan, 1964; Kohlberg, 1966), can contribute
to gender role strain (Eisler, 1995; Pleck, 1981, 1995),
and are viewed by many as important to integrate
into the process of counseling and psychotherapy
(Brown, 1986; Gilbert & Scher, 1999; Brooks &
Good, 2001). As such, mental health practitioners in-
creasingly view gender roles as critical to their theo-
retical, empirical, and clinical work.
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.