One explanation for sex differences in supportive behavior is that men and women pursue different goals in supportive interactions. Sex differences in goals may themselves be explained by personality traits such as expressivity and supportive self-efficacy, or situational factors such as target responsibility. The current study examined sex differences in the pursuit of eight supportive goals, and the extent to which differences were explained by personality and situational factors. Participants (254 men, 386 women) read hypothetical scenarios involving a distressed friend who was depicted as responsible or not responsible for his or her problematic situation, and responded to measures of supportive goals and personality traits. Results indicate that women are somewhat more likely to pursue a range of goals that are likely to result in effective supportive messages (e.g., emotional support, problem-solving). Many of the sex differences in goal pursuit were mediated by the personality traits of expressivity and supportive self-efficacy.
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