Gender Differences in Communication Values
Gender Differences in the Communication Values of Mature Adults
As a result of books such as
You Just Don’t Understand
(Tannen, 1990) and
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
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
—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