Girls and women receive a consistent message about the high social and emotional costs of their anger. However, the impact of this message may vary depending on the gender role expectations of the work environment and/ or the developmental context. Our primary goal was to examine the experience and expression of anger in two groups of females with distinctly different work roles (students and office employees). Because students "work" in an environment that endorses masculine attitudes and behaviors, we expected that they would be more willing to express their anger than would office employees. The focus was on within-gender rather than between-gender similarities and differences because we agree with Rollins' perspective: "Rather than asking who are more aggressive--women or men--we should be analyzing the cultural, social and psychological circumstances surrounding incidents of [anger and] aggression by women".
One hundred sixty-three students (M age = 20.28 years, SD = 2.18; range = 18-27 years) and 118 office employees (M age = 45.38 years, SD = 9.36; range = 22-65 years) participated in this study. All participants were recruited from a mid-sized university in the northwestern United States. Of the 72% who indicated their ethnicity, 93% identified themselves as Caucasian, 1% as Native American, 4% as Asian or Asian American, and 2% as Hispanic. Employee education ranged from some high school (1%) to completion of a graduate degree (14%). The majority of participants had some college education (42%) or a bachelor's degree (37%). The employees occupied a range of positions within the university: 49 were in professional or supervisory roles, 37 were administrative assistants, and 32 held clerical or secretarial positions. (Throughout the remainder of this paper, work status refers to the student and employee groups.)
State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI). The STAXI, a 44-item self-report measure, was used because it has been normed separately for males and females across developmental periods. Its factor structure has been verified, with only minor discrepancies from the projected theoretical structure being reported. Mean scores of the participants on all STAXI subscales were within one standard deviation of the scores for the standardization population. To evaluate differences/similarities in stable anger style, we used the two trait anger subscales: Trait Anger Reaction and Trait Anger Temperament. Scores on the STAXI trait anger subscales reflect stable personality characteristics, specifically tendencies to respond hostilely to an unfair evaluation or to interpret a situation as threatening.
Anger Evaluation Survey. The Anger Evaluation Survey is an open-ended inventory exploring affective, cognitive, and behavioral responses to anger-provoking situations. The format is paper-and-pencil self-report, in which respondents answer questions by selecting from possible options, with space provided for descriptive responses as well. Selection of items was guided by previous research and the results of pilot interviews with older adolescent females.
In the first section, participants responded to a hypothetical situation designed to elicit an emotional response to a blocked goal (the situation was piloted and found to elicit anger/frustration). They then described the intensity, type, and duration of the anticipated emotion. Participants also rated contextual factors that might influence their anger experience, using a three-point scale--more likely, no effect (neutral), or less likely to experience anger. These moderators included issues of equitable treatment, trust, previous experience with a similar situation, knowledge about others' reward in a similar situation, and institutional rationale for the lack of reward. Next, participants rated situational factors that might influence their anger expression. These moderators included the gender of the target person, anticipated effect on the target person, place, investment in the outcome, and personal factors, such a stress level.
Ail females classified as staff at the university received a letter explaining the nature and purpose of the research project. Employees who did not decline to participate received a research packet through campus mail. Research assistants collected the completed packets two weeks later. Students were recruited through class announcements and, in most cases, received course credit for their participation.
We compiled two instrument packets. One packet, entitled Expression Survey, began with the STAXI, and the second, entitled Anger Survey, began with the Anger Evaluation Survey. Half of the participants in each group received the Expression Survey and half received the Anger Survey. Of the 300 employees who received the questionnaire packets, 118 (39%) completed and returned those packets. Employees who received the Anger Survey were less likely to complete and return their packets than were the employees who received the Expression Survey (41% vs. 59%), chi2(1,N = 281) = 4.49,p < .05. Those who returned completed packets represented all levels of staff and all worked in an office environment.
- Hatch, Holly & Deborah K. Forgays, A Comparison of older adolescent and adult females’ responses to anger-provoking situations, Adolescence, Fall 2001, Vol. 36, Issue 143.
Reflection Exercise Explanation
Goal of this Home Study Course is to create a learning experience that enhances
your clinical skills. We encourage you to discuss the Personal Reflection
Journaling Activities, found at the end of each Section, with your colleagues.
Thus, you are provided with an opportunity for a Group Discussion experience.
Case Study examples might include: family background, socio-economic status, education,
occupation, social/emotional issues, legal/financial issues, death/dying/health,
home management, parenting, etc. as you deem appropriate. A Case Study is to be
approximately 225 words in length. However, since the content of these Personal
Reflection Journaling Exercises is intended for your future reference, they
may contain confidential information and are to be applied as a work in
progress. You will not
be required to provide us with these Journaling Activities.
Reflection Exercise #1
The preceding section contained information
about an introduction to older adolescent and adult females’ responses to anger-provoking situations. Write
three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section
in your practice.
What three responses to anger-provoking situations does the Anger Evaluation Survey evaluate? Record the letter of the correct answer