An Examination of Masculinity-Femininity Traits and Their Relationships to Communication Skills and Stress-Coping Skills

Article excerpt

This study examined the relationships of masculinity-femininity with stress-coping skills (Ozeki, 1993) and with communication skills, measured by the Social Skills Inventory (SSI: Riggio, 1986). Participants were 916 (353 males, 563 females) undergraduate students, mean age 18.7 years, in Japanese universities. The following five types were studied: the masculine type, the feminine type, the androgynous type, the undifferentiated type, and the midmost type. Results showed that masculinity was strongly and linearly associated with the dependent variables, and femininity showed low correlation coefficients after controlling the masculinity, especially for males. For females, the androgynous type had higher communication skills and active coping skill than did the other types. The androgynous type had cumulative effects of masculinity and femininity.

Keywords: masculinity and femininity, androgynous type, midmost type, communication skills, stress-coping skills

Many studies have shown that the androgynous type acts more desirably than do other types in a communication situation (e.g., Hirokawa, Dohi, Yamada, & Miyata, 2000; Ickes & Barnes, 1978; Lamke & Bell, 1982). Hirokawa et al. (2000) found that an individual communicating with an androgynous partner may have less anxiety and uneasiness during the encounter. The first possible factor which explains why the androgynous type acts more desirably than do the other types is that this type may have higher communication skills. Frisch and McCord (1987) also showed that both masculinity and femininity were related to high communication skills, so the masculine, feminine, and androgynous types were equally socially competent. Some studies (LaFrance & Carmen, 1980; Zuckerman, DeFrank, Spiegel & Larrance, 1982) revealed that the masculine type showed only masculine behavior (e.g., interrupting and keeping silent) and the feminine type showed only feminine behavior (e.g., smiling and gazing), whereas the androgynous type displayed both behaviors.

The next possible factor is stress-coping skills. In their stress transactional model, Folkman and Lazarus (1980) define coping as cognitive and behavioral efforts to reduce and master the internal and/or external demands that are produced by a stressful transaction. Among several coping strategies, active coping, including problem-focused coping, is said to be more effective than passive coping to reduce anxiety under a stressful situation (Folkman, 1984). In studies by Gianakos (2000, 2002), both masculinity and femininity were related to active coping but not to passive coping.

One meta-analytic review revealed no relation of femininity to mental health (Bassoff & Glass, 1982). Even when femininity is related to psychological wellbeing, the association of masculinity is stronger (Stoppard & Paisley, 1987; Whitley, 1983). In the previous studies, correlation analyses were conducted to examine relationships of masculinity and femininity to communication skills (Riggio, 1989) and stress-coping skills (Gianakos, 2000, 2002). However, few studies have tested whether or not masculinity is linearly associated with communication skills and stress-coping skills after controlling for femininity, and whether or not femininity is linearly associated with those skills after controlling for masculinity. Additionally, multiplier effects of masculinity and femininity (effects of gender types) should be clarified. Many studies have examined differences among four gender types, the masculine type, the feminine type, the androgynous type, and the undifferentiated type (Bern, 1974; Marsh & Byrne, 1991). Most studies categorize the gender types based on median scores of masculinity and femininity. In order to clarify the different characteristics of the four gender types, it was necessary to select participants according to a certain higher or lower level of perceived masculinity and femininity. Intermediate levels of masculinity and femininity could be compared with the four gender types as a standard type: the midmost type (Norlander, Erixon, & Archer, 2000). …