UBC Theses and Dissertations
The roles of power and gender as determinants of affective responses to intimate conflict Strachan, Catherine Elizabeth
There is a paucity of research studying variables which influence emotional reactions in response to conflict between intimates. The present study examined the roles of power and gender as determinants of affective response to audiotaped scenarios of intimate conflict. Sixty male and 60 female subjects were randomly assigned as either a group leader (high power condition) or group member (low power condition) for the performance of a group task. After receiving their group assignments, subjects completed an affect check list and then listened to an audiotape of a heated conflict between a man and a woman concerning sexual jealousy. Two tapes were presented to control for gender of initiator (i.e., who started the conflict) so that subjects heard either a male-initiated or a female-initiated conflict. After exposure to the conflict stimulus, subjects again completed an affect check list. It was hypothesized that subjects in the high power condition would report more anger than those in the low power condition. In addition, participants in the low power condition would report more anxiety than participants in the high power condition. Also, men were predicted to report more anger than women and women more anxiety than men. The highest anger ratings were found for participants in the low power condition listening to a person of the opposite gender initiate the conflict. This difference was significant for females, although a similar pattern for males was not. Furthermore, an interaction effect was found, with females who had listened to a female-initiated conflict in the high power condition reporting more anger than those in the low power condition, a response pattern that was in the opposite direction to the other three groups. A main effect was found for power, with participants in the low power condition reporting more anger than their high power counterparts. In addition, the results partially supported the hypothesis-regarding anxiety, with subjects in the low power condition reporting significantly more anxiety than those in the high power condition. These results, however, were limited to the male-initiated conflict. A significant gender difference was found for both the anger and anxiety ratings with women reporting more of both affect clusters than men. The results support the basic contention that power and gender are important determinants of affective responses to intimate conflict. The results are discussed in terms of the expectations and cognitions created by power and gender stereotypes and their influence on the process of labelling emotions within the context of intimate conflict.
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