Dr. Irby-Shasanmi recently published “Gender Differences in the Effects of Support Exchanges on Self-Esteem and Mastery for Mid- to Late-Life Adults,” in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology.
Applying social psychological theories of social exchange and gender socialization perspectives, we assess gender differences in the effects of receiving and giving social support on self-esteem and mastery (i.e., self-concept) for respondents in the United States. We also explore whether imbalances in support exchanges are beneficial or detrimental to self-concept for women (mean age = 72) and men (mean age = 73). We examine this topic using data from Mended Hearts volunteers. Methodologically, we investigate the gender patterns of self-esteem, mastery, and social support by examining common summary statistics (i.e., means, standard deviations, Cohen’s d) as well as locations and scales which attempt to account for skewness. We also compare results from bivariate correlations with regression analyses to ascertain if and when results converge. First, the means/standard deviations and locations/scales reveal different gendered patterns in self-concept and social support. Second, among women, we find a large positive effect of giving instrumental support on self-esteem in the regression analysis; on the other hand, the zero-order correlation reveals a weaker effect. For men, giving emotional support has a large positive effect on self-concept in both the bivariate and regression analysis. Third, reciprocity in instrumental support is generally beneficial for self-concept, but effects are larger for women. Fourth, imbalances in emotional support are associated with higher self-concept for women. Given the disjuncture between 1) summary statistics that do and do not take into account the skewness of the study measures and 2) correlations versus regression coefficients, our study suggests a need to critically address how methodological decisions (e.g., addressing skewness) affect results reported in social psychological studies and the conclusions drawn from them.
Amy Irby-Shasanmi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI