Research has explored both the role of family relationships and peer relationships on gendered social development. Studies show that adults interact differently with babies dressed in pink (a “girl” color) than babies dressed in blue (a “boy” color). When entering a room with a baby dressed in blue, adults tend to play more actively and rough house more with the child. When the same child is dressed in pink, adults tend to play in more soothing ways, cooing and cradling the infant as opposed to tickling it or tossing it in the air. As boys and girls grow up in America they are socialized into their gender roles. Boys learn that they are made of “snips, snails and puppy dog tails” while girls consist of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” When boys fall, they are encouraged to “be tough.” When girls fall, they are checked in with, dusted off and cuddled (Santrock 2007). In the midst of all of these interactions, boys learn that vulnerable emotions are to be at best contained, at worst stifled. Either of those extremes can be epitomized by either the police officer containing their emotions in crisis to best serve, or on the other end, a male with a high need for expression, who societally isn’t allowed to do so. Girls seem to be taught that vulnerable emotions are at best, experienced by a group, at worst, tools for manipulation.
In the midst of those interactions, boys and girls are also developing peer relationships. In those peer relationships, Deborah Tannen identified that boys tend to use report talk, while girls tend to use more rapport talk. Report talk is defined by what is going on, while rapport talk is what does it feel like. Report talk is built on a hierarchical structure, while rapport talk is built on a structure of egalitarian connection (2001). Egalitarian structuring lends itself more towards the sharing of vulnerable emotions. If one is trying to prove superiority over a competitor, being seen as susceptible is a liability. In contrast, being seen as imperfect or needing fits with a connective social structure because it compels the maternal within to protect and soothe. In the midst of these co-occurring processes, what is it that then compels females toward greater emotional intelligence than males?
Both responses can be adaptive as long as they don’t begin and end with the expression or nonexpression of emotion. According to Kennedy-Moore, cognitive moderation is a requirement to effective emotional regulation and social intelligence (2005). Does the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory Youth Short Version consider the cognitive processing in determining emotional intelligence? Do peer or caregiver relationships plays a greater role in emotional development across the genders?
Harrod, N.R. & Scheer, S.D. (2005) An exploration of adolescent emotional intelligence in relation to demographic characteristics. Adolescence. 40(159). 503-512
Kennedy-Moore, E. & Watson, J.C. (1999) Expressing emotion: myths, realities and therapeutic strategies. The Guilford Press: New York, NY
Santrock, J. (2007) Adolescence. 12th ed. McGraw-Hill: New York, NY
Tannen, D. (2001) You just don’t understand: women and men in conversation. Harper Paperbacks: New York, NY