Gender, Emotion, and the Family

By Leslie Brody | Go to book overview
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10
Social Motives, Power, and Roles

It's been harder for women to advance in the business world than men—the pay scale is different. If I were a woman, I think I'd be envious, too.

—Andrew, age 42

Although there is no doubt that families contribute to the emergence of gender differences in their children, families themselves are subject to many cultural and societal pressures about gender. In the next few chapters, I will be widening the framework for understanding how gender differences emerge. If family processes are in the center of a gender differences picture, cultural and social processes form thick borders around it, often merging with it and changing its focus.

How are cultural and social processes linked to emotional expressiveness ? When people experience emotions, such as anxiety, disappointment, pride, or fear, they know the state of their well being and whether or not they are close to reaching their goals (Carver and Scheier 1990). 1 In particular, emotions inform people about their position with respect to the power, status, and intimacy they expect to attain in interpersonal relationships (Kemper 1978). Expressing particular emotions also enables people to realize their social and cultural goals by influencing the quality of their relationships, as consistent with functionalist theories of emotion (Campos, Campos, and Barnett 1989). For example, people who are motivated to attain status may express contempt for those they perceive to be low-status individuals. Expressing contempt may make them feared or hated by low-status individuals, thus keeping low-status individuals at a distance. Expressing contempt may also bond them in a common superiority with others who have high status, thus enhancing self-esteem.

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