The Psychology of Gender, Fourth Edition

The Psychology of Gender, Fourth Edition PDF

Author: Vicki Helgeson

Publisher: Psychology Press


Publish Date: July 29, 2011

ISBN-10: 0205050182

Pages: 656

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

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 women and men 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 entitled 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 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, plays 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 are presented. In the first chapter, I provide a brief overview of the field of gender, including how gender is construed across cultures and some of the philosophical and political controversies in the area. In Chapter 2, I review the scientific method that is used to study gender, including the unique difficulties that arise in this field, as well as provide a brief history of the psychology of gender, which includes a review of the various instruments used to study gender. In Chapter 3, I present research on attitudes toward gender and gender roles, focusing largely on gender-role stereotypes. Then I turn to the research literature to provide the current data (Chapter 4) and theory (Chapter 5) on sex differences in cognitive, social, and emotional domains. In Chapter 5, I discuss different theories of gender-role development, such as evolutionary theory, social learning theory, social role theory, and gender schema theory. In Chapter 6, I discuss the implications of gender and gender roles for achievement. Thus in the first section of this book, I provide important information on the similarities and differences between women and men and the theories that explain any observed differences. The data and the theories are important for understanding the subsequent sections of this book that address the implications of gender for relationships and health.

The second section of this book begins with a discussion of women’s and men’s communication and interaction styles (Chapter 7). These findings have implications for the specific relationships discussed: friendship (Chapter 8) and romantic relationships (Chapter 9). Research on crosssex friendship, relationships among sexual minorities, and friendships at work 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 a chapter that provides an overview of sex differences in health and theories as to their origins (Chapter 10). Health is broadly construed in this book to reflect physical health problems, such as coronary artery disease, as well as mental health problems, such as depression and eating disorders. In Chapter 11, I investigate how gender affects the association of relationships to health. The effects of marriage and parenting on health are reviewed in Chapter 11 as are the effects of relationships gone awry, specifically domestic abuse and rape. Chapter 12 presents an examination of how gender affects the association of work to health, which includes a substantive discussion of pay disparity and sexual harassment. The final chapter focuses on the implications of gender for mental health, specifically, depression, eating disorders, and suicide.

For those of you who are familiar with the previous editions, I would like to highlight some changes that I have made. The basic structure of the book is the same, but the information has been substantially updated— not only in terms of more recent statistics on relationships and health but in terms of more cutting edge research, such as work on implicit gender attitudes and brain imaging studies. I have updated research on people of different cultures, races, and ethnicities and expanded my coverage of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) persons. I have also integrated the research on GLBT persons into the text rather than having separate sections devoted to GLBT persons or GLBT relationships, which only served to accentuate differences. I have not made any major structural changes to the text. I have streamlined the chapters a bit, reorganized some topics to provide a more consistent flow of discussion, and tightened some lengthy discussions so that the primary points of an issue are more easily conveyed. For example, I integrated the leadership and influenceability sections in Chapter 7, and integrated the social support discussion in Chapter 7 with the support and health discussion in Chapter 11. I tried to break down complicated theories with visual aids that highlight key points of the theories. I also made a semantic change in the language used throughout the text. I am embarrassed to reveal that a reviewer pointed out the inconsistency in educating people about the use of sexist language and my consistent use of the phrase “men and women” instead of “women and men.”

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