Role That Gender And Emotions Play In Defining Peoples’ Development

Introduction

Inquiries into the factors affecting human growth and personality development reveal nurture and nature as the key factors. As individuals go through their normal life routines, their development from childhood to adulthood, various physical, social, economic and environmental factors will affect their development (Zeidner & Olnick-Shemesh, 2010). According to Else-Quest et al (2006), knowledge of these factors is needed for proper understanding of how they affect the physical, intellectual and social development of individuals, as well as how they influence the individual’s personality or self-concept. The main aim of this essay is to explore how an individual’s gender and emotions affect their development and personality – different from others. Hence, the first item that the essay will address is the influence of gender and emotions on how people develop into what they become. The second item to be addressed in this essay is how gender and emotions influence the way people differ from each other. These two issues will be addressed separately, although the ultimate conclusion will bring the issues together to understand what the discussions actually mean to the two issues.

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The importance of Gender and Emotions in Guiding Human development

Parents and Families

Currently, literature has increasingly emphasized on the role of children’s and parent’s understanding and perceptions about each other’s intentions and dispositions as key determinants of how they influence each other (Zeidner & Olnick-Shemesh, 2010). But, Else-Quest et al (2006) insists that parents scan still powerfully influence the characteristics of their children’s development. For instance, Baumrind & Black (1967) found that children whose parents are firm and responsive tend to be more cooperative and competent than those whose parents are either permissive or authoritarian. However, whereas this finding has always been interpreted that children benefit from authoritarian parenting, this causal relationship may manifest itself in the opposite direction, i.e. parents with cooperative and competent children may find it easier to be responsive and firm (Fernandez et al, 2012). Similarly, Harris (1998) illustrates the influence of child-parent socialization on the child’s development by stating that parents have the capability of fostering development of specific talents in children, and can have an influence on children’s leisure time activities, food preferences, acquisition of knowledge and skills, religious beliefs, and preferences that will later influence their career choices. However, Harris (1998) fails to highlight other aspects in which parents may not influence the children. In fact, Harris’ (1998) assertions are in conflict with the opinions of Rowe (1994) who states that children’s development may little be influenced by their families and the traits they may eventually have as adults, especially in working-class families. In fact, Rowe (1994) goes ahead to doubt whether a child’s undesirable behavior can be changed by their parent’s actions.

Whereas authors have presented conflicting views on whether a difference in parent’s socialization with the child create a developmental difference between children, there are several pieces of research evidence confirming this hypothesis. For instance, after Maccoby & Martin (1983) found weak correlations between children’s characteristics and parenting processes, several studies (e.g. Reiss et al 1995 and Conger & Elder 1994) have made several methodological changes and found a stronger correlation between these two variables. Ideally, by aggregating several factors (e.g. the views of parents, teachers, children, school records and sometimes police and peer records) to improve the ways in which parenting processes are assessed, the researchers found a significant correlation between parent socialization and children’s developmental characteristics and behavior. In doing so, Reiss et al (1995) and Conger & Elder (1994) found that parental socialization variables were attributable to up to 50% of the difference in child developmental outcomes.

Emotions

The role of emotional competence on developmental outcomes among children and adolescents has largely been documented in the existing literature. For instance, Codispoti et al (2008) observed that middle childhood is the stage where emotional competence reaches its critical phase, because it is at this time that children gain their ability to employ emotional regulation strategies and understand complex emotions. Besides, Else-Quest et al (2006) state that when children reach middle school, they begin to learn how to cope with any complexity of the human world that they experience, and therefore the ability to control and regulate oneself is crucial at this stage of life.

By the time they reach adolescence, young people start to acknowledge various situations that evoke their emotions, and they respond to these situations with proper expressions (Zeidner & Olnick-Shemesh, 2010). In the process, according to Else-Quest et al (2006), adolescents develop essential coping strategies especially when they start to broaden their exposure to social interaction and as they become more mature. This necessitates sufficient provision of emotional intelligence knowledge and skills to ensure they effectively cope with stressful life events at this turbulent stage of life.

Whereas young people in early to middle adolescents stage experience a decrease in well-being (which reaches its lowest point at the age of 16), (Csikszentmihalyi et al 2003), Zeidner & Olnick-Shemesh (2010) hypothesized that emotional competence has an influence on one’s subjective sense of well-being. In detail, according to Zeidner & Olnick-Shemesh (2010), young people with high emotional competence tend to have a subjective feeling of well-being due to four main reasons. First, they have a better understanding of their emotions and the best way of moderating them, and this makes them feel a sense of well-being. Secondly, they tend to have a richer social connection and thus demonstrate more effective coping strategies. Thirdly, they are capable of accurately interpret information produced by both their environments and their emotions and thus can maintain a higher sense of well-being. Lastly, so long as individuals with better emotional intelligence are exposed to a propensity of experiencing more positive effects, they are more predisposed to a sense of subjective well-being.

From an academic perspective, academic success among young people is crucial to their childhood development. In this regard, Codispoti et al (2008) attempted to investigate the impact of emotional achievement on the academic competence among adolescents. The study found that academic success was significantly predicted by academic success among all students regardless of their gender. Similar results were found by Qualter et al (2007), Petrides et al (2004) and Trinidad & Johnson (2002) whose findings indicated that students with various emotional dimensions including intrapersonal stress management, interpersonal stress management, and adaptability had better academic achievement. These pieces of evidence, although some are conflicting, justify the need for emotional competence to be encouraged or taught to children.

Attachment

Attachment can be defined as the emotional bond that exists between the parent and their child (Fernandez et al, 2012). According to Else-Quest et al (2006), children can be considered as attached to their parents if they tend to seek for contact or proximity with either of the parents or with a specific caregiver. In the words of Schore (1994), children who are attached to a protective caregiver are capable of regulating their emotions when under a stressful environment, regardless of how frightening the environment may be. Nonetheless, a review of the literature reveals conflicting evidence regarding how children’s development is impacted by the emotional effects of attachment. First, research evidences by Fernandez et al (2012) show that securely attached children tend to be better at controlling negative emotions when in stressful situations. Similar findings were made by Bowlby (1940) who concluded that securely attached children tend to develop a better an ability to express their feelings and experiences, thereby developing better social competence than those who lack secure attachment. Moreover, securely attached children are also less likely to develop externalizing or internalizing behavior problems (Fernandez et al, 2012).

Stayton and colleagues (1971) found that children (i.e. 9 months of age) who are responsive and protective to their caregivers are more likely to heed to what their caregivers requested, and are more likely to be securely attached to by the time they reach the age of 12. Schore (1994) was interested in exploring how attachment affected children’s brain development and found that the evolution part of a child’s brain is influenced by an early interaction with the socio-emotional environment, an influence that lasts for the rest of the child’s life. Schore (1994) goes ahead to explain that in the first two years of the child’s development, their brain is highly adaptable and therefore any actions by the caregiver psychologically regulates the nervous system responsible for experiencing life. Similarly, in the study by Greenough (2001), it was found that children with no relationship with at least an emotionally invested caregiver may display various developmental deficits that last for a while. These findings are in agreement with the findings of Bowlby (1940) who observed that when the bonding between the mother and the child fails, children are exposed to serious maternal deprivation that could escalate to various health complications including intellectual retardation and dwarfism. These findings corroborate with the findings of Speltz et al (1990) who found that children facing insecure attachment begin to be problematic early, especially when they develop externalizing behavior such as non-compliance, aggressiveness, and immature behaviors. These pieces of evidence are all in agreement that children experiencing insecure attachment tend to have more developmental problems compared whose attachment are secure. However, there is a paucity of research evidence highlighting contrary findings, or suggesting that attachment does not have any effect on human development.

Are women more prone than men to feel certain emotions? How about gender non-binary individuals?

It is still unclear whether there is a gender difference in emotional experiences. Research studies by Fernandez and colleagues (2012) and Bradley and colleagues (2001) indicated that as opposed to men, women tend to experience stronger and more frequent negative emotions. Moreover, findings by Tobin (2000) agree with these findings and suggest that perhaps this is why men are less prone to mood disorders than women.

Maccoby & Jacklin (1974) explored gender differences in how people emotionally expressed their frustration and fears. The study found that both men and women reacted similarly to frustrations, although there was a diminishing negative outburst reaction with age in women more than men. Moreover, the study found that toddler (18-month-old) boys were more reactive to frustrations than girls of the same age. These findings indicate a developmental pattern where girls display a trend of decreasing their expression of externalizing emotions such as outburst, as a result of being more aware of their roles in the society as female genders, or they are increasingly experiencing the advantage of self-regulation and language abilities in their early years.

In another study, Else-Quest et al (2006) examined the temperament levels between boys and girls of age 3 to 13 months and found that there was a small but significant difference in fearfulness among both genders, although there were no significant differences in anger or sadness expression. Whereas girls displayed more fearfulness compare to boys (d=-12), the study relied majorly on the parent’s responses to temperament questionnaires.

In regards to positive emotions, Else-Quest and colleagues (2006) investigated the how positive moods differed by gender, using a mood questionnaire by measuring the parent’s perceptions of their children’s personal emotional experiences and expression. The study results indicated a very small effect size indicating that girls had higher levels (d=-.09) of positive mood than boys.

But there is conflicting evidence to these findings. For instance, studies by Hilam and colleagues (2004), and Codispoti and colleagues (2008) revealed conflicting evidence, i.e. than men and women have similar emotional experiences. In an electrophysiological research by Codispoti et al (2008), heart rate (HR) was found to be lower among individuals who watched emotionally inducing pictures, although there were no gender differences in HR. Similar findings have been reported in studies investigating how men and women respond to movies. For instance, Carvalho and colleagues (2012) investigated people’s emotional responses to movies and found no difference in the way both male and females responded to the emotional tides of the movies. Nonetheless, there is a paucity of evidence highlighting how binary-gender persons respond to or feel certain emotions. Exiting pieces of evidence, i.e. Giordano (2018) only acknowledge that transgender individuals experience emotions of shame, but do not compare these feelings with other genders. Ultimately, it appears that there is conflicting evidence regarding how gender and personality affects the experience of emotions, creating a need for further research to make a concrete establishment on this topic area. It is therefore not possible to conclude that women are more likely to feel certain emotions than men, neither is it possible to conclude that binary-gender individuals are more prone to feel certain emotions than other individuals.

Are there evidence-based gender differences in Emotional Intelligence? And in aggression?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) can significantly influence various aspects in human’s daily lives (Castillo & Extremera, 2012). It can be defined as a person’s ability to accurately and efficiently decode emotional information. Fernandez et al (2012) argue that because EI entails several human abilities, it is therefore influenced by several factors, one of them being gender. Interestingly, existing research evidence shows that the gender differential in emotional intelligence varies from one region of the world to the other. For instance, in a recent study (Chandra et al, 2017) carried out in India among medical graduates, it was found that female graduates had a higher EI than male graduates, and were less aggressive than their male counterparts. Similar results were observed in the USA by Van Rooy et al (2005) who investigated whether there is any correlation between gender and EI and found than males had a lower EI than females, as well as lower emotional and interpersonal skills (including inability to resist aggressiveness) than females. Ranasinghe (2017) also investigated the correlation between gender and EI among Sri Lankan medical undergraduates and found that females’ level of emotional intelligence was averagely higher than males and were less likely to develop aggressive behavior. In contrast, Zohrevand (2010) compared the level of emotional intelligence among 17-year-old school females compared to the male student from different schools in Iran and found that the female students had an averagely lower EI than that of females. However, in some cases, (e.g. Kirkcaldy & Thome 2000) researchers did not find a clear difference in EI between genders. In a UK study by Premuzic et al (2008), the researchers were not able to find any significant relationship between gender and EI among employees.

Does gender play a role in the occurrence, experience and coping mechanisms associated with emotional disorders?

All genders are at risk of emotional disorders such as stress and depression. Consequently, researchers have been keen on examining the gender difference in how people experience, express, respond to and cope with such emotional disorders. For instance, in a study by Brebner (2003) investigating subjective emotion experience between men and women, results indicated a higher level of anxiety, sadness and fear among women than men. Similar findings were made by Ollendick and colleagues (1995) and Fischer and colleagues (2004). It emerges that there is a dearth of research considering bodily/behavioral indicators of emotions. However, the few that are available e.g. Rottenberg and colleagues (2002) and Barnes & Buss (1985) and indicate that women tend to express greater anxiety and sadness in their bodies and behaviorally than men during their interaction with their spouses.

Contrastingly, studies evaluating the psychological research studies evaluating emotional responses to stress indicate that the blood pressure levels in men tend to be higher than those in women. For instance, Allen and colleagues (1993) and Stoney and colleagues (1988) found that whereas women had a higher HR while responding to emotional disorders, men had greater blood pressure. Moreover, whereas previous studies by Cooper et al (1992) and Sinah (2001a) show that emotional disorders such as stress contributes to the development of drinking behavior, only a few studies with laboratory-based empirical evidence have shown this to be true. Nonetheless, it is important to note that earlier researchers on gender differences in responses or emotional disorders were primarily focused on single domain of responses i.e. behavioral, physiological or subjective response, and the correlation between the desire to drink and the emotional response has rarely been investigated. Moreover, previous research studies focusing on psychological emotional responses to emotional disorders commonly focused on emotional disorders that tend to be more associated to women than men; especially emotional disorders related to achievement (Stroud and colleagues 2002). Hence, as highlighted by Chaplin and coleagues (2008), there is a dearth of research evidence about emotional disorder responses in women than men. It is therefore impossible to conclude that gender plays a role in how people respond to, cope, manage or experience emotional disorders.

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Conclusion

One aspect that this study aimed to investigate is whether gender and emotions guide human development. Explored pieces of research evidence have shown that indeed, parent-child socialization, emotional competence, and secure attachment between children and their mothers affect their development. The second item that this study intended to evaluate is whether women are more prone to feel certain emotions than men. In this regard, the study was unable to find conclusive evidence to confirm whether women are more prone to certain emotions than men because while some studies confirmed to the affirmative, others confirmed the contrary. The penultimate objective of paper was to determine whether there are gender differentials in emotional intelligence. Here, the study found research evidence agreeing that the emotional intelligence levels in men is higher than that of males. However, the review also found other studies indicating an unclear relationship between emotional intelligence and gender, creating a need for further research to build a consensus on this issue. The ultimate goal of this review was to establish whether gender plays roles in the occurrence, experience and coping mechanisms associated with emotional disorders. Here, the study found that females tend to be sadder, anxious and fearful than men. Besides, whereas the review found a paucity of research on bodily/behavioral responses to emotions, the few available pieces of evidence indicate that females express more anxiety and sadness in their bodies and behaviorally than males during their interaction with their spouses. This raises the need for further research evaluating the behavioral responses to emotional disorders among both men and women, to identify if there is a gender differential in this aspect.

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