, Volume 32, Issue 1-2, pp 47-78

Gender differences in anger and fear as a function of situational context

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Abstract

Gender differences in the reported intensity of anger and fear toward hypothetical males and females were explored in three age groups (6–12 year olds, 14–16 year olds, and adults over 30) located in two different geographic areas. The samples were primarily Caucasian and included a wide range of socioeconomic groups. Subjects reported on the intensity of feelings elicited by characters in an emotion story task in which three aspects of situational context were varied: the gender of the story characters eliciting the feeling (all situations), the stereotypic gender-typed or cross-gender behavior of the eliciting character (four situations), and the affective quality of the situations (four situations). Across all three age groups, situations that were frightening, anger-provoking, or that depicted stereotypic male-negative behavior elicited the most consistent subject gender and character gender differences in reported fear and anger. Relative to males, females of all ages reported more fear in frightening, anger-producing, and male-negative stereotypic situations. Males were reported to be more frightening and anger-producing than were females in those same situations. The data also suggested that with development, females reported less intense fear of females, while males reported less intense fear of males.

This research was supported by a Gender Roles grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. We appreciate their support. We would also like to thank the public school systems of Milton, Norwood, and Watertown, Massachusetts, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Finally, we would like to thank Lance Davidow, John Houlihan, and Theodore Cross for statistical consultation and/or computer programming, as well as all the parents, children, and adolescents who participated in the study.