Young people, it seems, increasingly regard the word “masculine” with derision.

Based on the findings of a recent study, one wonders if such attitudes could stem from some latent insecurities. Via the Washington Post:

Researchers measured the grip strength (how strongly you can squeeze something) and pinch strength (how strongly you can pinch something between two fingers) of 237 healthy full-time students aged 20 to 34 at universities in North Carolina. And especially among males, the reduction in strength compared to 30 years ago was striking.

The average 20-to-34-year-old today, for instance, was able to apply 98 pounds of force when gripping something with his right hand. In 1985, the average man could squeeze with 117 pounds of force.

Now, there is a caveat here. The participants in the North Carolina study were recruited from college and university settings, so they’re not representative of the population as a whole. If you were to look exclusively at young adults who never went to college, for instance, you might get different results.

To summarize: it appears that the millennial males in college measured in this study were significantly weaker than their fathers. These results, the Post points out, comport with a 2011-2012 nationwide survey.

I tend not to put much stock in sweeping cross-generational comparisons, which often seem heavy on generational pride and short on substance, but the research here looks pretty sound. If true, it could buttress the idea that our society is creating “soft men.”

Is the apparent weakness of millennial males (at least those in college) evidence that we’re witnessing “the emasculation of men? Or is this yet another example of bad, headline-driven social science?