IT’S another day in social media land, and another day full of the use of the term toxic masculinity. A term that originated in the 1980s as a way to describe that part of the male psyche that is abusive has become so commonplace that many have come to view it as confirmation that masculinity itself is toxic.

Is this fair, or helpful? Or is it, dare I say the word, sexist?

Whatever it is, it’s a poor attempt to explain bad male behaviour: that violent and sexist men are proof that masculinity itself is toxic – when in fact people working in the mental health field, as I do with clinical hypnotherapy, know that violence is usually rooted in trauma, not masculinity.

Through the work of people like Dr Vincent Felitti and Dr Nadine Burke Harris we now understand that exposure to chronic prolonged traumatic experiences can influence brain development in a growing child in such ways that it can lead to – amongst other things – challenges with boundaries and empathy, emotional dysregulation, dissociation, low self-esteem, shame and guilt, poor impulse control, aggression, and trauma re-enactment.

This is not to excuse violent behaviour – it is abhorrent and we neither need it or want it in our society, but if we want to work towards a fairer, less violent world it would be more beneficial, surely, to have an honest and thorough look at the root causes of this behaviour rather than rely on what amounts to nothing more than a soundbite?

In my latest novel – Quicksand of Memory – I have a mix of characters, male and female, who all act in ways that are toxic, but it is only the male characters who will have their behaviour reduced to an “explanation” that impugns their gender.

When in fact all of the behaviour detailed is shown to come from intergenerational trauma, does the use of the term toxic masculinity add anything to the conversation?

A friend of mine works with children who are in danger of falling between the cracks, and of disengaging with education. More often than not they live in chaotic homes and experience trauma on a daily basis. They often have absent fathers and/or addicted, abusive, neglectful mothers/fathers.

Some of these kids are unable to engage in small acts of personal hygiene let alone silence the tumult in their minds long enough to listen to a teacher droning on about things that have no relevance in the horror that is their daily lives.

These children have had an incredibly difficult start to life and one could argue that this means they will have less chance of taking a meaningful place in society and living fulfilling lives.

Indeed, they are more likely to follow the patterns set down by their parents and their traumatised brains, but it is only the boys whose behaviour, as they grow into men, will be reduced to a lazy shorthand and what has become clichéd thinking.

Our prisons are full of people who have experienced physical, verbal or sexual abuse. Estimates vary, but I’ve read studies that put the number of men in prison to have experienced sexual abuse, either as children or adults, at anything between 60-80%.

There are thousands of men who find themselves in prison as a direct consequence of falling into drug and alcohol abuse as a way of “coping” with their trauma. Couldn’t one argue that attributing their actions to their masculinity being toxic amounts to victim blaming?

Campaigns have been run by womens’ groups – indeed, books have been written, to argue that women caught up in such cycles of violence should be treated more leniently. But for the men? Complete silence from many of those in power. And the continued use of a term that is blind to all but one potential cause.

A world that works to understand trauma and its potential for violence might not cut it out altogether, but it may well do a better job of rehabilitation and re-integrating those who stand alienated on the periphery of society.

Isn’t it about time that we take an unblinkered view of the root causes of violence, and dismiss terminology that has been taken beyond its usefulness and become, well, toxic?

Michael J Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. His latest psychological thriller Quicksand of Memory is due out April 14 published by Orenda Books