A communal orientation focusing on others is consistent with stereotypes of women’s social roles and personality traits, whereas an agentic orientation focusing more exclusively on oneself is consistent with men’s roles and traits. Using survey methods, we drew from Sandra Bem’s ideas to investigate whether gender differences in endorsement of communal and agentic conflict-management strategies varied depending on the peer relationship context. When gender differences were found, we investigated whether they were accounted for by masculine and feminine personality traits. College students (N = 116; 49 men and 67 women, 18–24 years-old) from the U.S. mid-Atlantic region rated stereotyped masculine and feminine traits as well as communal and agentic strategies for resolving hypothetical contexts in three peer contexts: same-gender friend, other-gender friend, and other-gender romantic partner. When conflicts involved a same-gender friend, women rated communal strategies higher than did men, but men’s and women’s ratings of communal strategies were similar in the other peer contexts. When conflicts involved an other-gender friend or romantic partner, women rated agentic strategies higher than did men, but men’s and women’s ratings of agentic strategies were similar when the conflict involved a same-gender friend. Women’s greater endorsement of communal strategies for managing conflicts with a same-gender friend was partially explained by their being more likely than men to endorse stereotypical feminine personality traits. Results are discussed in light of Bem’s (1974) once revolutionary, but still relevant, ideas that situational demands influence behavioral expressions of gender and that gender is a multidimensional construct.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: May 28, 2016
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