Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Gender, Emotion, and the Family

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Gender, Emotion, and the Family

Article excerpt

Gender, Emotion, and the Family. Leslie Brody. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1999. 359 pp. ISBN 0-6743-4186-4. $19.95 paper.

According to recent pronouncements from the popular psychology literature, men and women originate from different planets and occupy different emotional worlds. In particular, it is argued that compared with men, women are the more emotional sex-more empathic, sensitive, and emotionally expressive. Given the pervasive nature of this cultural stereotype, and given the power of stereotypes generally to shape people's perceptions and so, in a sense, to shape reality, the task of scientifically sorting fact from fiction on the nature and origins of gender differences in emotional expressiveness is a daunting one. This is, however, the task that Leslie Brody, a distinguished scholar in the field, has set herself in this timely and cogently argued volume. Specifically, the aim of Gender, Emotion, and the Family is to critically review what we know and don't know about gender differences in emotional expressiveness and to theorize about the emergence and maintenance of such differences with respect to the complex interactional processes among biological, social, and cultural factors.

The book is divided into three sections plus an introductory chapter setting out the parameters of the topic. The first section examines empirical data on gender differences in emotional expressiveness across the modalities (faces, voices, words, and behaviors) and discusses the evidence that women are, in fact, more generally emotionally expressive than men, with more extended emotion vocabularies, even in childhood. Brody notes, however, that expressiveness crucially depends on context and emotion type. The second section theorizes about the biological and familial origins of gender differences in emotional expressiveness. I was pleased to see the chapter on biological origins, though I was puzzled by its apologetic tone. …

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