Vicki S. Helgeson The Psychology of Gender

ISBN 13: 9780130287694

The Psychology of Gender

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9780130287694: The Psychology of Gender

Focusing equally on both men and women, this innovative book ties together the empirical research and conceptual discussions surrounding gender in the areas of psychology, sociology, anthropology, medicine, and public health. Going well beyond simple summary statements of the similarities and differences between men and women, it explains the similarities and differences--and the magnitude of differences--between men's and women's thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It reviews the research from multiple perspectives, but emphasizes the implications of social roles, status, and gender-related traits, particularly for relationships and health--areas that are central to readers' lives and that have a great impact on their day-to-day functioning. Sex-Related Differences: Observations and Theory. Achievement. Communication. Friendship. Romantic Relationships. Sex Differences in Health. Relationships and Health. Multiple Roles and Health. Mental Health. Aggression. Chronic Illness. For anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences between the sexes, especially in regard to relationships and health.

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About the Author:

Vicki S. Helgeson, accomplished scholar and teacher from Carnegie Mellon University, draws from research in the areas of psychology, sociology, anthropology, medicine, and public health to explore the roles that society has assigned to men and women. Other variables, such as sex, status, and gender-related traits, are addressed and contribute to the understanding of the individual in the social context in this exciting new introductory text.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The purpose of this text is to provide a review of the empirical research and conceptual discussions surrounding gender and to examine the implications of gender for relationships and health. The focus of this book goes beyond sex alone—whether one is biologically male or female-to explore the roles that society has assigned to men and women and the other variables that co-occur with sex, such as status and gender-related traits. The implications of social roles, status, and gender-related traits for relationships and health are examined. This is why the book is titled The Psychology of Gender rather than The Psychology of Sex. Gender is a term that represents the social and cultural forces that influence men and women in our society. The book discusses the "psychology" of gender because the focus is on the individual in the social context. The primary focus is not on biology and anthropology, although their contributions to the study of gender are included.

Rather than review every single topic related to gender, I examine the implications of gender for two broad domains of research: relationships and health. These domains are chosen, first, because they are central to our lives. Friendships, romantic relationships, and relationships at work have a great impact on our day-to-day functioning. Psychological well-being and physical health are important outcomes in their own right. A second reason. for the focus on relationships and health is that these are domains in which clear sex differences have been documented. These sex differences cannot be attributed to biology alone; thus, relationships and health are domains for which gender, the social category, may play a role.

The book is divided into three sections, with each section building on the previous one. First, the nature of gender and the development of gender roles is presented. In the first chapter, I provide a brief overview of the scientific method and discuss the difficulties in conducting research on gender, including the philosophical and political issues that pervade this arena. I then provide a brief history of the psychology of gender, which includes discussions of the various instruments used to study gender (Chapter 2). I also discuss our attitudes toward gender and gender roles, as well as gender-role stereotypes (Chapter 2)., I then turn to the research literature to provide the current data (Chapter 3) and theory (Chapter 4) on sex differences in cognitive, emotional, and social domains. In Chapter 4, I also discuss different theories of gender-role development, such as evolutionary theory, social learning theory, social role theory, and gender schema theory. In Chapter 5, I discuss the implications of gender and gender roles for achievement. Thus, in this, first section of the book, I provide important information on the similarities and differences between men and women anal the theories that explain any observed differences. The data and the theories are important for understanding the subsequent sections of the book that address the implications of gender for relationships and health.

The second section of the book begins with a discussion of men's and women's communication and interaction styles (Chapter 6). These findings have implications for the specific relationships discussed: friendship (Chapter 7) and romantic relationships (Chapter 8). Recent research on cross-sex friendship and gay and lesbian relationships are included in these chapters. The role of gender in relationships is critical to understanding the third section of the book, how gender influences health.

The third section begins with an overview chapter documenting sex differences in mental and physical health and theories as to their origins (Chapter 9). Health is broadly construed in this book to reflect specific physical health problems such as coronary artery disease, but also to encompass mental health problems (e.g., depression, eating disorders) and behavioral problems, such as aggression. In Chapter 10, I investigate the implications of gender as a health resource in relationships, in particular marriage. The effects of marriage and marital quality on health are reviewed in Chapter 10, whereas the effects of work and parenting on health are reviewed in Chapter 11. Subsequent chapters focus on two specific health issues: Chapter 12 focuses on depression and Chapter 13 focuses on aggression (including rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment).

Multiple perspectives on the development of differences between men and women are offered, but the primary perspective that I emphasize is a social psychological one. I examine gender as an individual difference variable but focus on the influence of the context—the situation, the environment, the culture—on gender. I have drawn from research in the areas of psychology, sociology, anthropology, medicine, and public health.

I do not merely itemize sex differences in this text. In many domains, sex differences are more elusive than people believe. I highlight both similarities and differences and remind the reader about the magnitude of differences throughout the chapters. I also point out methodological flaws or difficulties that may bear on the observance of sex differences. The focus of the book is on the explanations for men's and women's thoughts, feelings, and behavior—not simply a summary statement of the similarities and differences between men and women.

This text can be used for an undergraduate course on the psychology of gender, preferably for more advanced students. This text also could be supplemented with empirical readings for a graduate-level course. The book should have widespread appeal to students in the sciences and humanities. Students certainly do not have to be psychology majors to read this text, but some knowledge of research methods would be helpful. Because social psychological theories are so widely discussed in this text, a student who has taken such a course will find the book especially appealing and be able to grasp many of the concepts quite quickly. However, theories are explained in sufficient detail that students without a background in social psychology or psychology should understand the material.

Gender is a topic with which all of us are familiar, regardless of the scientific literature. Thus, it is sometimes difficult to mesh personal experiences with the research literature. To help students integrate the two, each of the chapters, includes exercises—mini-experiments—for students to conduct to test some of the research ideas presented. The results of these experiments will not always work out as intended, partly because the sample sizes will be small, partly because the samples will not be representative, and partly because the best ideas do not always translate into the best research designs. The purpose of the exercises is to allow students to gain experience with some of the methods used to study gender and to learn firsthand about how people experience gender in their lives. Other aids to learning include key terms in boldface throughout the chapters and a summary of key terms and definitions at the end of the chapter; summaries of the main points at the end of the chapter; a list of thought-provoking discussion questions; and a list of suggested readings accompanying each chapter.

VICKI S. HELGESON

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