, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 281-296

The effects of the sex composition of groups on style of social interaction

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Bales's revised interaction category analyses (1970) were done from audio tapes of 77 four-person discussion groups: 46 mixed-sex groups, 15 female groups, and 16 male groups. Each group discussed three cases for a total of 35 minutes. The hypothesis tested was that females in mixed-sex groups would suppress their level of “task” contribution and engage in higher levels of “socioemotional” contributions when compared to the performance of women in one-sex groups. Males were also predicted to become more sex-role stereotyped in mixed-sex groups, showing the opposite effect. Results showed large sex differences, regardless of group composition, in the direction of traditional sex roles. The effect of group composition, however, was opposite to that predicted. An effect of an experimental intervention during the second discussion topic on subsequent sex-role performance was also found. Implications for education are discussed.

The original research on which this analysis was performed was carried out during the spring of 1971. The analyses were performed during the years 1972 to 1973. This research was supported by NSF Grants GS-1901 and GS-27053 to the first author, by NSF Grant GS-32335 to the first author and Irving Piliavin, by Hatch Grant 1793 to the first author and M. E. Roach, and by the provision by the University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture of research assistant support. The authors would like to thank Ronda Nager for her exemplary coding of all of the second and third discussions and 15 of the first discussions, and Garrison Boye for serving as reliability coder for the first discussions. Jack Evanson and Kathi Dwelle of the MACC have also been of great help in the data analysis. Gene Anderson served as experimenter for half of the discussion sessions and coordinated the entire data collection. Frank Hooper and Andrew Michener helped in the initial formulation of the analysis, and Irving Piliavin offered valuable suggestions on the manuscript.
Jane A. Piliavin, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Women's Studies Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Rachel Rosemann Martin is a Master's Degree candidate in the School of Business, and has recently returned to the use of her birth name, Rachel Rosemann.