Gender Differences in the Communication Values of Mature Adults

Gender Differences in the Communication Values of Mature Adults

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Gender Differences in Communication Values 1 Gender Differences in the Communication Values of Mature Adults Abstract Contrary to the “different cultures” view of men’s and women’s communication, prior research on communication values has found only small sex differences in the value placed on various affective and instrumental skills. However, this research has been criticized because college students’ values may not reflect those of older individuals, and because it has failed to examine the influence of psychological gender (femininity and masculinity). In the current study, 153 men and 151 women over the age of 40 completed the Communication Functions Questionnaire (a measure of value for eight communication skills), as well as the Bem Sex Role Inventory (a measure of femininity and masculinity). Consistent with past research, sex differences in communication values were few and small. Femininity and masculinity were positively associated with most communication values, and mediated most of the observed sex differences.
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Gender Differences in Communication Values 2 Gender Differences in the Communication Values of Mature Adults As a result of books such as You Just Don’t Understand (Tannen, 1990) and Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (Gray, 1992), as well as the scholarly work of Wood (e.g., 1997, 2000), the different cultures perspective was the dominant framework for understanding gender differences in communication throughout the 1990s. This perspective argues that men and women constitute different cultural groups with respect to personal relationships and communication therein. Women are said to conceptualize relationships as contexts for connectedness and expressiveness, while men are said to view relationships largely as contexts for individual pursuits and tangible accomplishment. Correspondingly, this perspective argues that women value, prefer, and employ affective forms of communication, whereas men value, prefer, and employ instrumental forms of communication. (For detailed discussions of the different cultures perspective, see Wood, 2000; Kunkel & Burleson, 1998.) Beginning in the mid 1990s, however, the different cultures perspective was increasingly challenged by empirical research. Numerous studies now indicate that men and women are far more similar than different in their conceptualizations of close relationships. For example, they have highly similar definitions of relational closeness (Parks & Floyd, 1996), beliefs about the sources of satisfaction in friendship (Kohl & Bradac, 1996), and standards by which they evaluate romantic relationships (Vangelisti, 1997). With regard to communication, Burleson and colleagues have demonstrated that men and women differ very little in their communication values —evaluations of the importance of various affective and instrumental communication skills in close relationships. Although women place somewhat more value on some affective skills (e.g., conflict management and comforting skills) than do men, and men place somewhat more value on some instrumental skills (e.g., persuasive skills) than do women, both men and
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2011 for the course ART Speech 104 taught by Professor Dolin during the Spring '11 term at Harrisburg Area Community College.

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Gender Differences in the Communication Values of Mature Adults

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