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It seems to be a fact that men and women have behavioral styles. Around 50 percent of all marriages in the United States, including second marriages and so on, end in divorce, and most clients report trouble in their marriages. It is believed that the problem boils down to the fact that men are generally more aggressive and less emotionally attached than women, and therefore, it is difficult for men and women to settle differences. The gender differences between men and women continues to garner the interest of sociologists and psychologists because there are some studies which show that men and women have more in common than they have differences. For example, Zuckerman (1985) found that the men and women reported similar life goals, self esteem, interpersonal self confidence, and self concepts.
Bevir (1996) found that people of all cultures share the same expressions, and Otis, Levy, Samson, Pilote, & Fugere (1997) believe that there is some indication that gender roles are becoming less diverse. Yet, the divorce statistics remain high and counselors still discuss marital problems with their clients. In fact, the bulk of studies continue to show that there are distinct sociological and behavior differences between men and women. Several conflict studies (Brooks-Harris, Heesacker & Mejia-Millan, 1996; Klinetob & Smith, 1996) support the fact that either of the two persons involved in an argument who has gained a position of power will back off from an aversive discussion. In other words, the partner in a position of power has nothing to lose and everything to gain by backing off from the ensuing communication. Yet, all three of these studies report that this does not always mean that men will back off.
Often, men will continue an argument whether they are winning the argument or not, especially if the woman wants to continue the discussion. These studies found that men practice aversion to avoid aggressive behavior. In a similar study on conflict, Maccoby (1988) found that men use physical force, such as holding a woman's arm while making a point, while women use verbal persuasion. Culturally, men and women exist in a world where girls and boys receive different types of attention and are rewarded for different reactions in social situations. According to Ehrhardt & Wasserheit (1991), these early rewards create a lifelong response to various situations.
In their study, Ehrhardt & Wasserheit showed the behaviors are influenced by sex roles and social and cultural values. Girls are punished verbally for acting aggressive in making their point and boys are encouraged for the same behavior. Girls are rewarded for acting passively, while boys are rewarded for acting bravely While this study shows that these behaviors are changed early, Otis, Levy, Samson, Pilote, & Fugere (1997) found in a study of 2, 060 college students that many of the gender differences are developed during the dating period, where women take less initiative than men. They believe that subsequent relationships between men and women may be based on this dating standard.
They state that the reason in the difference in behavior is that the motives for dating are different. "For women, emotional reasons are more compelling than for men, for whom lust and the quest for sexual domination are pervasive. Men also usually perceive sexual innuendoes in women's verbal and non-verbal messages, although this is not the case for women. Men are more inclined than women to initiate sexual relations, and they often resort to strategies like pressure and manipulation" This same study found that while these differences are beginning to disappear in the dating relationship compared to the results of studies conducted in the 1960 s, "gender relationships are still characterized by an asymmetry in which women continue to be dominated by men in certain sexual areas, while in other spheres this asymmetry is attenuated or even non-existent" (Otis, et al. , 1997). Part of the problem is in nonverbal communication.
For example, while Otis, et al. found that some of the differences are beginning to disappear, men may withdraw from an argument, but they do this to avoid displaying emotion. While backing off means that the men agree with their partners, they were unwilling to involve themselves in discussions or a show of physical emotion for fear of Briton & Hall (1995) have shown that there are differences in the nonverbal cues given by men and women. In their study, Briton & Hall found that women are generally better at decoding nonverbal cues than are men. They report that some theorists attribute this capacity to the fact that women are more sensitive and more emotionally receptive. In their study, Briton & Hall (1995) found that women use cues such as smiling and laughing and gesturing more often than men.
They also found that men were interruptive, nervous, aggressive, and less capable of demonstrating more positive physical cues (Briton & Hall, 1995). The authors felt from their observations that biologically, women may have a greater capacity for facial expressions as the others studies show, but they admit this may be based on sociocultural expectations, rather than biologically gendered responses In a study by Klinetob & Smith (1996), the authors found that the person who usually withdrew from conflicts was the initiator. Klinetob & Smith studied of 90 couples and found that during the course of a wife-generated topic, the wife was viewed as the demander, while her husband withdrew from the discussion. In contrast, during the course of a husband-generated topic, the opposite was true; the husband demanded and the wife withdrew. The main difference in gender responses according to the authors was that the men tended to withdraw more often. The authors felt that this was because the man more often obtained the "winning" position, and the woman wanted to continue the conversation, while the "winner" did not (Klinetob & Smith, 1996).
Rubenstein (1994) conducted a study on cooperation between professionals at a mental health facility. While Rubenstein found no significance differences in self-assessment and objective observations between the genders in relationship to the area of cooperative effort, there were great differences in self-perception between the genders about their professional roles at the facility and how others perceived them. This study indicates that perception of gender roles plays a significant part in working relationships. Women were reported as being more receptive by both he men and women surveyed, while men were considered to be less receptive to suggestions by women. Part of the problem in the Rubenstein study was the fact that men, in fact, held higher positions at the facility, and the author felt this may have influenced the outcome.
For example, often the doctors had no direct contact with nurses and other staff who Bevir points out how most research seeks to create a chasm between men and women when the actual objective and subjective views held by both genders are similar. He writes that Peter Winch identified the results of the research as contributing to "limiting notions" (Bevir, 1996). Bevir believes that this line of thinking only serves to make the differences apparent, and feels that there is overwhelming evidence that people share similar emotions about work, church, school and other experiences. He states that men and women have a much stronger necessity to get along than to be at odds, and that they achieve this (Bevir, 1996). Despite Bevir's view, the results of research are overwhelming that there are differences between the way men and women respond in conflict situations. In a 1997 study of alcoholics in a VA recovery and counseling program and their wives, Murphy & O'Farrell (1997) found that women "exceed men in facilitative-enhancing communication, regardless of alcoholism status" (Murphy & O'Farrell, 1997).
However, these same researchers suggest that the use of alcohol may be the cause of the alcoholic husbands' lack or limited use of communication since the husbands had severe alcohol-related The women in this study were also very passive. The researchers suggested that the husbands' verbal or physical aggression may have been instrumental in the wives' willingness to concede or defer power to her husband. However, what they found was that aggressive and nonaggressive alcoholics differed in their ability to end Murphy & O'Farrell discovered that by the second lag in a negative communication, the nonaggressive husbands avoided conversation. Physically aggressive husbands always reacted aggressively, and in fact their aggression escalated significantly after the second lag in conversation.
In addition, the physically aggressive husbands continually responded negatively to their wives' negative interchanges, and were not likely to end the conversation. Because a significant number of the couples had been married in their teens, the authors suggest that the husband's inability to end the negative interchange may be attributed to early onset male alcoholism, where aversive conversations became an integral part of the marriage from its inception. Even in this context, the authors concluded that the results suggest that the wives were more constructive problem solvers than their alcoholic husbands, especially when aggression was present. As these studies show, the lessons learned early in life continue throughout as Ehrhardt & Wasserheit (1991) and Otis, et al. (1997) posit. These behaviors are based on reward systems in place during the early stages of life where men are rewarded for aggressive and insistent behavior and women are rewarded for passive and persuasive behavior.
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Murphy, C. M. ; & O'Farrell, T. J. (1997, Jan). Couple Communication Patterns of Maritally Aggressive and Nonaggressive Male Alcoholics.
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