It turns out I can’t make it to EHBEA 2012, so I thought I’d post the abstract of the talk I was going to give. Please contact me if you’re interested in finding out more about this study 🙂
Explaining gender differences in children’s accounts of interpersonal conflict: Evidence from three European countries
Gordon P. D. Ingram, Interactions Lab, University of Bath
Evolutionary theory predicts several gender differences in interpersonal conflict, which should be present at least from early adolescence. It was investigated whether these were present in preadolescent children’s own accounts of conflicts that they had experienced. Gender differences were predicted in the frequency of reports of physically aggressive responses, anger, sadness, relationship-based competition, skill-based competition, and reconciliation. Since these differences were predicted to be culturally invariant, children from three different countries were assessed.
132 children (aged 9–12) in the UK, Portugal and Greece were interviewed about conflicts that they had personally experienced. Interviews were fully transcribed and coded for the six dependent variables listed above. Aggressiveness, victimization frequency and vocabulary level were controlled for using standard questionnaires, and entered as covariates in a logistic regression.
Chi-square analyses indicated that for children from all countries, as predicted, girls were less likely to respond to conflict with physical aggression, more likely to engage in conflicts over friendship alliances, and less likely to engage in conflict over formal sports or games. Predicted differences in anger, sadness and reconciliation were supported only for UK children. Logistic regression showed that the gender effect on physically aggressive responses was mediated by general aggressiveness. Other effects were present even when including control variables.
The gender effect on physical aggression has a strong evolutionary rationale, since remaining free from injury is important for rearing offspring. Differences in skill-based and relationship-based competition were weaker and more variable, suggesting that they included components of culture and/or personality. Differences in the emotions aroused by conflict and in the ability to resolve conflicts effectively seemed highly culturally specific.