Men overestimate how much their peers tolerate derogatory comments towards women and underestimate other men's willingness to step in to stop violence, a new paper says.
The issues paper will be released today, in support of White Ribbon Day, by the Auckland University-based Family Violence Clearinghouse, which is the national centre for collecting and distributing information about domestic violence.
Author and violence prevention researcher Garth Baker drew on international research to look at men's roles in stopping violence against women.
He found norms and social expectations around what it means to "be a man" have a powerful influence in shaping attitudes and behaviours.
"Firstly, men routinely overestimate other men's comfort with derogatory comments and behaviour towards women, and in the mistaken belief that they're in the minority, they keep quiet which may be in turn incorrectly interpreted as silent approval by others.
"Secondly, men underestimate other men's willingness to intervene in violence against women.
"Letting men know that their peers also oppose violence can be the first crucial step in engaging men."
Mr Baker said traditional ideas of masculinity involved suppressing feelings like nurturing, receptiveness, empathy and compassion.
"More than just being protective factors against violence, these emotional competencies enable healthy sustainable relationships."
The paper proposed strategies for tackling family violence; such as showing more positive examples of equitable, non-violent male behaviour, and identifying strong, positive male role models.
The paper did not aim to disempower men, but encourage discussion on wider models of masculinity and dispel misconceptions around violence as an integral component of manhood, Mr Baker said.
The Family Violence Clearinghouse is managed by Auckland UniServices, an Auckland University subsidiary, and is funded by the Families Commission.
The White Ribbon campaign raises awareness about violence towards women and asks men to be part of the solution.