Gender, Power, and Communication in Human Relationships

By Pamela J. Kalbfleisch; Michael J. Cody | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Managing Conflict and Anger: Investigating the Sex Stereotype Hypothesis

William R. Cupach Illinois State University

Daniel J. Canary Pennsylvania State University

Researchers often assume that sex differences provide information about the way people behave ( Deaux & Major, 1990). Presumed sex differences are often accompanied by a second belief, that is that people's sex differences reflect traditional, conventional stereotypic portraits of men and women. The stereotypic woman is kind, nurturing, relationally sensitive, warm, and expressive; the stereotypic man is dynamic, assertive, competitive, task-oriented (or agenic), and competent ( Deaux & Lewis, 1984).

It is also commonly believed that men and women exhibit significantly different behaviors that reflect these stereotypes when managing interpersonal conflict. That is, because men are more competitive and less relationally sensitive than women, men more likely engage in competitive or avoidant conflict management behaviors, whereas women more often rely on cooperative and engaging conflict management behaviors. In this chapter, we combine such views on men and women and label them the sex stereotype hypothesis. If this hypothesis is true, it presents important implications for the ways in which heterosexual couples (romantically or otherwise involved) negotiate their differences, and how they ultimately manage their relationships.

Although researchers often assume there are sex differences that affect social interaction, recent reviews and meta-analyses on interaction behavior in various contexts cast doubt on the generalizability and strength of sex differences. For example, in a review of 15 meta-analyses on sex differences relevant to social

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