Evaluations of Aggressive Women: The Effects of Gender, Socioeconomic Status, and Level of Aggression


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Abstract

Research finds gender differences in aggression and suggests that female violence is viewed differently from male violence. Participants were 94 female and 38 male students from a mid-size public university in the Southeast. Participants read a mock trial and answered questions about their attitudes concerning an aggressor in the scenario. The study was a 2 (male or female) by 2 (high socioeconomic status or low socioeconomic status) by 2 (verbal aggression or physical aggression) between-subjects factorial design. The participants responded to a revised version of the Attitudes Toward Women Scale (Nelson, 1988). As hypothesized aggressive women were evaluated more negatively than aggressive men and participants evaluated the female aggressor who used physical aggression more negatively than the female who used verbal aggression. The hypothesis that the female aggressor would be perceived as more in need of counseling than the male aggressor was not supported. Contrary to another hypothesis, respondents did not evaluate higher socioeconomic status aggressors more negatively than those of lower status. As hypothesized people with traditional views of women evaluated the female aggressor more negatively than people with more liberal views of women, and liberal participants evaluated the male and female aggressors similarly. The more negative evaluation of female aggressors and, in particular, females who use physical aggression, may result in unfair treatment of such females. These social biases may cloud perceptions of aggressive females, suggesting that their actions are more inappropriate than those of a male who committed the same act.

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