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Review of Brodys Gender and Emotion Beyond Stereotypes

‘Gender and Emotion: Beyond Stereotypes’ by Leslie R. Brody deals with breaking down the stereotypes related to the differences in emotional expressiveness between the genders, and how and why these differences are stereotyped. Brody seeks to argue that a large percentage of the emotional expressions that are associated with each gender are so linked because of social processes such as predetermined gender roles, differential status and power and socialization histories of the sexes, rather than biological factors. He finds that stereotypes are inaccurate and generalized, and that they create a cycle of expected expression. However, different factors that sometimes overshadow these stereotypes, such as culture or agents of socialization, can result in emotional expressiveness that belies all commonly held notions of gender specific expression.

According to Brody, emotional expressiveness “includes measurable changes in either the use of words, the facial and vocal characteristics associated with emotion, physiological arousal, or behaviours such as aggression or crying.” Kennedy-Moore and Watson (1999) similarly define emotional expression as “observable verbal and nonverbal behaviors that communicate and/or symbolize emotional experience. Expression can occur with or without self-awareness. It is at least somewhat controllable, and it can involve varying degrees of deliberate intent.”

A vast volume of research has been done on emotional expression, beginning with Darwin’s precursory functionalist theory that expressions have adaptive purpose, essential to survival and evolution. Modern functional theorists such as Campos, Campos, Kermoian and Mumme (1994), state that each expression of emotion has behavioural consequences. Studies have shown cultural and racial factors as contributors to emotional expression (Ekman, 1973; Shaver, Wu, Schwartz & Clark, 1992; Kitayama & Markus, 1994). Verbal expression has been studied by theorists like Leff (1974) and Plutchik (1980), giving insights into universal expressions of emotion. Expression has also been studied as a function of age (Polce-Lynch, Myers, Kilmartin & Kliewer, 2001). Appraisal theories stress on the social and cultural influences, such as socialization histories and roles on gender differences in emotional expressiveness. Emotional expression has been studied extensively in terms of gender, and Brody is a main contributor to this area. He goes beyond merely citing the apparent differences between males and females in this respect. His research is in line with appraisal theories, and he supports such theories with his own evidence of how situations, individual differences and a whole range of social processes affect gender stereotypes regarding emotional expression.

Stereotypes are "over-generalized beliefs about people based on their membership in one of many social categories." Similarly, gender roles are "socially and culturally defined prescriptions and beliefs about the behavior and emotions of men and women" (Anselmi and Law, 1998). Studies on gender stereotypes have shown differing attitudes towards men and women (Eagly & Mladinic, 1989), differences in perceptions of competency of the two sexes in diverse areas (Huddy & Terkildsen, 1993), interpersonal interactions, and effects on performance (Lips, 1994). A group of theorists called object-relation theorists study the effects of socialization on the development of gender identity. Some theories state that cognitive organization plays a role in gender stereotyping, during the process of socialization. Children are exposed to their culture or society’s characterization of the roles of males and females. These concepts are internalized as a ‘gender schema’. New information and experiences are then categorized with the help of these existing concepts (Bem, 1983). Similar to Brody’s research on the role of involved fathers on both genders, Chodorow (1978) studied the role of the bond between mother and child in the development of both boys and girls. She found the effects to be different for the two sexes. In view of how stereotypes affect gender expectations and behaviour, Brody’s study is effective in displaying how the stereotypes are misleading, and how they actually shape emotional expression due to being exaggerated and generalized.

Brody conducted two separate studies to indicate the various factors acting upon males and females and the resultant levels of emotional expressiveness, and how these may go against stereotypes. In both studies, Brody used the independent groups design under the experimental design. The first aimed to show that gender differences in emotional expressiveness are culturally specific. Three groups were divided out of 119 American undergraduate students with varied ethnic backgrounds (European-American, Asian-American, Asian), including both sexes, were given the Affect Intensity Measure (AIM: Larsen & Diener, 1987), and a 2x3 MANOVA.

The second study seeks to prove that “fathers who spend more time with their children have sons and daughters who express relatively fewer gender role stereotypic emotions.” The sample consisted of 95 school children and their parents. The parents were given the Household and Child Care Checklist (Baruch & Barnett, 1986), which reveals the amount of time spent in performing each of 15 child care tasks, and the children were given Masculinity-Femininity Scale on the Children’s Personality Attributes Questionnaire (Hall & Halberstadt, 1980). The children’s emotional expressions were also measured by the stories they wrote on the Themes for Emotional Development-R (Brody & Hay, 1991). The scores of these two tests were related to the percentage of time the fathers spent with their children.

The first study revealed distinct differences between the three different cultures studied in terms of the emotional expression, but within that frame, there were gender differences as well. These are theorized to have emerged due to differences in culturally specific social roles. Other studies, such as those done by Harré (1986) and Shaver et al, maintain this cultural effect on emotional expression. However, certain studies lead to the conclusion that emotional expressions are more universal in nature (Plutchik, 1980; Matsumoto, 1992). Perhaps this discrepancy has arisen due to the fact that while Brody’s design is an experimental one, Matsumoto’s findings are based on observation.

The second study revealed that Brody’s hypothesis was true, thus indicating that gender differences are not solely biological in origin. As just an example of the many socialization processes involved in creating dissimilarities between the two sexes, Brody found that children whose fathers were more involved showed less stereotypical expression – boys expressed more interpersonal affiliation emotions and less aggression, while girls expressed more competitive emotions and more aggression. Socialization has been acknowledged as a contributor to emotional expression (Halberstadt, 1986; Roeser, Eccles & Sameroff, 2000).

The results of Brody’s study are thus consistent with most other research done in this area. The methodology used is appropriate; however, further studies might look in to different age groups. The first study was on students averaging 20 years of age, while the second was on school children. The long term effects of cultural change and of the level of the involvement of fathers would provide further insights into the non-stereotypical expression of emotions. Also, the sample used in the second study was from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Studying the parental involvement within two different cultural groups might provide further support to both studies conducted by Brody. All in all, he is successful in highlighting how previous research has overstated the effects of stereotypes on the way males and females express emotions, thus ignoring other key factors such as culture, situation and individual differences. Expression of emotion may differ in intensity and in frequency, for example, although men may express aggression more frequently, women may express it more intensely. However, in proving this exaggeration of stereotype, his research does show that within each context, stereotypes do play a major role.

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