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Women & Relationships

Women & Relationships

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Women & Relationships

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  1. Women & Relationships

  2. Friendship

  3. Friendship Women have often been portrayed as incapable of true friendship However, many female friendships are deep, intimate, and enduring Females emphasize self-disclosure, emotional closeness, and empathy Central theme in female relationships is talking

  4. Friendship con’t ... Girls Boys even in early childhood, girls talk and share stories tend to develop fewer, more intimate, friendships spend more time talking rather than playing more likely to spend time together in active play more likely to have large groups of friends with whom they DO, rather than talk

  5. Childhood Parents & caregivers Siblings Other children

  6. Childhood con’t ... • Friendships formed in childhood can be fleeting • Competition • Relocation • Adult interference

  7. Friendship con’t ... • Women’s friendships change over the course of their lives • Dating • Marriage • Children • Career • Divorce • Widowhood

  8. Adolescence Relationships can be more enduring Shared interests, activities Competition can intensify Dating Parental interference

  9. Adulthood • Less competitive • e.g., if in a romantic relationship spend more time with couples • More enduring • e.g., friendships that survived adolescence, more experience with relationships

  10. Sex & the City Enduring Non-competitive 30s • Friends • Enduring • Slightly competitive • 20s

  11. Friendship? Or something else? • Proximity • Convenience • Familiarity • What makes it a “real” friendship?

  12. The Opposite Sex • Friendships • ARTICLE: Can Men and Women Be Friends?

  13. Family & Intimate Relationships 14

  14. Family Structure • What happened to “married with children”? • This family pattern is on the decline • Birth rates (worldwide) have dropped • Fewer people are getting married • In developed countries, average age of marriage is 26-27 • Divorce is more likely than in previous decades (40 - 50%) • What are the implications of these trends?

  15. Implications • Families are smaller • Relationships are more complex (e.g., unmarried or divorced parents) • More pressure for each family member to be a “generalist” rather than a “specialist” (e.g., mother might not stay home, cook, clean)

  16. The Couple Bond: Love • Beginning in adolescence, much energy is invested in forming couple bonds • Important for meeting our needs for intimacy and companionship; also provide the basis for the formation of families • Researchers suggest that people of any age, ethnic group, culture, or gender are capable of passionate romantic love: the intense feeling of longing for union with another person that can dominate one’s emotions 17

  17. The Trend toward Love • “If someone had all of the qualities you would want in a mate but you were not in love with that person, would you marry him/her?” • Several decades ago, more men than women would say “no”. This gender difference has now disappeared. Why?

  18. Women Benefits: intimacy, self-growth, self-understanding, self-esteem Costs: loss of identity, loss of innocence Men Benefits: sexual satisfaction Costs: monetary expense of dating Costs & Benefits Benefits: companionship, happiness, feeling loved, loving another

  19. Styles of Love • Women: more pragmatic (practical, compatibility-centred) and friendship oriented • Men: more likely to experience love as playfulness, without too much intensity or serious commitment • These gender differences seem to transcend sexual orientation

  20. Attachment & Autonomy • The stereotype: Women want more closeness; Men want more independence • The reality: men and women place equal value on these two needs • When differences are found, they tend to be counterstereotypic: women being more concerned than men about maintaining their independence

  21. Relationship Quality • Cohabiting heterosexual couples have the lowest scores for ‘love for partner’ and ‘relationship satisfaction’ (when compared to married heterosexual, gay, and lesbian couples) • Married couples report the most barriers to leaving a relationship; Cohabiting couples report the fewest • For all types of couples, relationship satisfaction is linked to seeing few good alternatives to the relationship, high shared decision making, and few beliefs that disagreement is bad for the relationship

  22. Power, Influence, & Equality • Maintaining an intimate relationship involves making decisions, compromises, and taking into consideration the needs and preferences of both partners • It is inevitable, therefore, that issues of power, influence, and equality play a part in how the relationship functions and in the couple’s satisfaction with the relationship • For most Western couples, an equal balance of power is ideal • Such equality is frequently lacking

  23. Power, Influence, & Equality • An imbalance of power tends to be associated with one partner being more emotionally invested in the relationship and differences in access to resources (education, employment, desirable alternatives to the relationship) • Psychological theories of interpersonal power focus on equity, the principle of least interest, and resources as bases of power

  24. Equity & The Principle of Least Interest • When couples evaluate their relationships, they often focus on fairness • Equity: the balance between contributions to and benefits from the relationship (almost like a ratio) • Those who feel a relationship is equitable tend to feel satisfied (not surprisingly)

  25. Self Interest • Attitudes about how the contributions and benefits should be weighted are influenced by self-interest, culture, and peer attitudes and expectations • e.g., in a social environment that favours traditional gender roles, the preceding examples seem fair; as our society becomes “less traditional”, these arrangements are often challenged • In relatively equal income couples, women who assume far more domestic duties still report equity and satisfaction in the relationships

  26. Investment • When we invest time, money, energy in a relationship, we don’t want to give it up without a fight • Social network may seem irreplaceable • Economic security/stability • Comfort • Feeling loved/needed • The person who has the lowest emotional investment, who values the benefits of the relationship least, is more likely to be the dominant one and is more likely to leave the relationship. The other partner often senses this and makes accommodations and compromises in hopes of keeping the relationship.

  27. Resources • When one person tries to influence another to engage in a particular behaviour/make a particular decision, the other person has to be given a reason to comply • Reasons for compliance: • Love • The other person complied with your wishes last time • Fear of anger or tension in the relationship • Promise of reward • Irrefutable argument

  28. Resources • One of the fundamental ideas in the social psychology of interpersonal power is that power is based on control of resources • Therefore, on one person’s ability to affect what happens to the other person • e.g., the person who makes more money might spend more money than the other person (without justification or discussion) or withhold income at will (to control the person/assert dominance)

  29. BUT … • When the woman makes more money, she does not necessarily have more power in the relationship • In most societies, where men are seen to have a legitimate claim to authority in the family, they will still hold more power in a relationship than women—regardless of who has the financial resources

  30. The Power Shift • Power may shift back and forth between partners at different times and in different situations • Examples?

  31. Family & Parenthood 32

  32. Families: All Shapes & Sizes • The notion of a family as something that is contained in a household is too narrow; yet, most statistics about families are based on this particular group

  33. Mothers & Children • A Brazilian village: women respond to each pregnancy as the possibility of a new life but also the possibility of a new death • Many women bear more than a dozen children and it is not uncommon for many of the infants to die before their first birthdays • Mothers often will not bond with, or even name, the child until s/he is over a year old • If an infant is sickly, they may withhold food to hasten death

  34. Mothers & Children • Pre-Communist China: common for mothers to abandon infants that they did not think could survive • Viewed as a sacrifice that would allow the survival of other family members • Those who believe in a “natural” attachment between mother and child are disturbed by such stories • North American stereotypes about motherhood (e.g., instant powerful bond between mother and child) • When an infant is ill and unlikely to survive, vast medical resources are still devoted to caring for the child • Mothers who abandon or kill their children face serious criminal charges

  35. Mothers & Children • Evolutionary theorists argue that there is nothing “unnatural” about mothers “cutting their losses” when it appears that an infant will not survive • Rather, this response is part of our evolutionary heritage (e.g., survival of the fittest)

  36. Motherhood • Is not an automatic set of feelings and behaviours that are switched on by a pregnancy and birth of a baby. It is an experience that is profoundly shaped by social context and culture. • Other North American stereotypes: • Ultimate fulfillment of feminine roles • Mothers should be warm, nurturing, selfless, and sacrifice their own needs (repeatedly) to ensure the welfare of their children • When women fail to meet these unrealistic and idealized demands, they are often blamed for not only the failings of their children, but for the failings in society

  37. Motherhood • One of the biggest criticisms of mothers in North America is the stifling/suffocating of her children emotionally by trying to live through them • “Stage mothers” and “sports mothers” • Mothers who hold onto other aspects of their identities (e.g., working outside of the home) have reported being more satisfied with their lives and have higher self-esteem than their at-home counterparts

  38. Conditions • The benefits are greatest when certain conditions are met: • Availability and affordability of high quality child care • Family support • Women’s perception that their work is important and a legitimate priority • Can also be beneficial for children (socially and intellectually) to be in a childcare setting outside of the home

  39. A Matrix of Tensions • Loss of self versus expansion of self • Feeling omnipotent versus feeling liable • Life destruction versus life promotion • Maternal isolation versus maternal community • Cognitive strategies versus intuitive responses • Maternal desexualization versus maternal sexualization

  40. Single Mothers • In North America, 80% of single parent households are led by women • More likely than other family configurations to live in poverty • Single mother families make up half of all families living in poverty

  41. Mother-Daughter Relationships • Mothers are important role models for their daughters • Worldwide, daughters of employed mothers hold less traditional gender role attitudes than daughters of stay-at-home mothers • The mother-daughter relationship also has important implications for the development of feminist attitudes • Daughters who identify strongly with feminist mothers held similarly feminist awareness • Strong, respectful, mutually interdependent mother-daughter relationships are linked with high levels of feminist consciousness • On the other hand, some daughters develop high levels of feminist consciousness when reacting to possessive, jealous, or anxious mothers

  42. Mother-Daughter Relationships • Culture clash can lead to clashes between generations, especially among families who have immigrated from another country • Insistence on their daughters’ conformity to traditional cultural values often produces conflict that lasts into adulthood • Many daughters will rebel against their mothers in an effort to become enculturated but, as adults, often find a new appreciation for their traditional culture

  43. Mother-Daughter Relationships • Daughters often become caregivers for the their mothers, and this situation presents many potential sources of conflict about mothers’ and daughters’ expectations • Often comes at a time when daughters have many other responsibilities (caregiver burden) • The relationship between mother and daughter is redefined in many ways (role reversal, increased awareness of mortality, effects of aging, increased tolerance and acceptance, and putting priority on relationships)

  44. Fathers & Children • Ten years ago, a 10-country study (e.g., U.S., Nigeria, China) revealed that fathers, on average, spent less than one hour per day on childcare • Mothers in these countries spend 5.2 – 10.7 hours per day in solo childcare (the highest average belongs to women in the U.S.) • Although the research has not been updated, other studies suggest that fathers still spend considerable less time than mothers do with their children

  45. Fathers & Children • Fathers are more likely than mothers to spend time in play activities; mothers spend more time in maintenance activities • Marital satisfaction is positively linked with fathers’ childcare involvement • Higher income = less time spent with children during the week • Self esteem and age at which a man becomes a father have been shown to predict satisfaction with parenthood (being older when the baby is born is linked to higher satisfaction)

  46. Fathers & Children • In studies of preschool children, those whose fathers were responsible for 40 – 45% of childcare showed higher cognitive competence and greater empathy toward their peers • Girls are thought to be more sensitive to approval and disapproval from their fathers • Having a supportive father or boyfriend can be an important factor in women’s willingness to choose nontraditional careers

  47. Women without Children • In Canada, approximately 15% of heterosexual couples never have children • A common and persistent theme is the notion that women who do not have children have missed out on the core aspect of being women • In colonial America, childless women were not targets of disapproval or pity, but by the end of the 18th century, marriage and motherhood had been highly romanticized and childlessness began to be viewed as a personal tragedy

  48. Women without Children • In many cultures, childlessness is personally, socially, and economically devastating • In some cultures (e.g., many African countries), status, and even financial support, comes from having children • Women can be divorced, abandoned, physically abused by their partners, stigmatized, and ostracized by their communities

  49. Women without Children • In North America, less emphasis is being placed on having children • In a cross-national comparison of industrialized countries, 70% of Americans disagreed with the statement: “the main purpose of marriage is to have children” • 51% of Norwegians and 45% of Italians disagreed with the statement • Women who choose to be childfree tend to be well-educated, white, and hold non-traditional beliefs about gender roles • Often criticized, isolated, stigmatized, and offered unsolicited advice (e.g., “you will regret your choice” or “you will be lonely in your old age”)