Skill deficit or differential motivation? - Testing alternative explanations for gender differences in the provision of emotional support

Erina L. MacGeorge, Seth J. Gillihan, Wendy Samter, Ruth Anne Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although researchers have proposed a skill deficit account for observed gender differences in the provision of emotional support, few studies have directly tested the claim that men are less capable of providing effective support. This study advances an alternative account for gender differences in the effectiveness of supportive communication, arguing that gender differences may emerge because men and women respond differently to situational factors that influence the motivation to provide sensitive emotional support. Participants produced emotional support messages in response to scenarios varying in target gender, target responsibility for theproblem, and target effort to resolve the problem, as well as in response to the problem itself (a replication factor included to increase generalizability). Women produced messages exhibiting greater emotional sensitivity than those of men across the other factors examined, providing support for the skill deficit account and failing to provide evidence of differential motivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-303
Number of pages32
JournalCommunication Research
Volume30
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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