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Aggress Behav. 2007 May-Jun;33(3):261-71.

Gender differences in emotional and overt/covert aggressive responses to stress.

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Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA.


We examined the role of stress exposure on gender differences in hostile (emotional and behavioral) reactions within the context of a laboratory paradigm. Aggressive behavior was indexed via the intensity (overt) and the duration (covert) of putative shocks delivered to a confederate. Half of the participants were exposed to a chronic stressor (high stress) and half were not (low stress). Participants' emotional responses were measured via self-report mood ratings before and after the experiment. Men displayed higher aggression in both stress conditions, which corresponded to their ratings of state hostility. On the other hand, women in high stress delivered lower intensity shocks, and this decreased overt aggression was positively correlated with sadness ratings. However, women did not decrease their levels of shock duration (covert aggression) under high stress and showed equivalent shock duration compared with men in high stress. These findings are discussed in terms of differential overt manifestations of distress between men and women.

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