Emotional Differences Between Men and Women - Stress Responses

Stress in Men and Women Causes Different Responses

Stress in men and women - women seek out friendships, men tend to want to be alone.
Stress in men and women - women seek out friendships, men tend to want to be alone. | Source

Are there Different Responses to Stress in Men and Women?

Biologically there are obvious gender differences.

Are there difference responses to stress in men and women ?

The human body is designed to react to stressful situations with the flight or fight response. Stress in men and women have the same biological reaction. As far recently as 1995, previous studies on stress mostly used men, only surveying women about 17% of the time. Some researchers rationalized the lack of women representation because they believed there would be more fluctuations due to a woman’s hormone levels from their menstrual cycles

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From Adolescence on There on Differences in Stress in Men and Women

Some researchers now believe women have a unique stress response that men do not necessarily possess called “tend and befriend”.

A researcher named Shelley Taylor believes that females have a different investment in parenting than men. Females, while pregnant, nursing, or taking care of their children, would not be able to run away when threatened. You can read the scholarly article at this website: http://scholar.harvard.edu/sites/scholar.iq.harvard.edu/files/marianabockarova/files/tend-and-befriend.pdf

The tend and befriend response is a reaction to tend to their offspring and befriend others around them so their liklihood of survival is increased. It is a protective response for herself and her offspring.

Studies, even among women who are abused, show that many of these women do not have connections within their community.

Stress in men and women has shown difference reactions near adolescence. It is not seen in young children beause they do no have sex hormones yet. Studies have shown that adolescent girls rely on support networks when they feel stressed.

Adolescent boys tend to engage in physical releases to deal with their stress. Testerone has been shown to increase in males when they are faced with stress.

There is a positive correlation between testerone and hostility and testerone and agression. This positive correlation means that there are higher levels of testerone in aggressive and hostile males.

Stress in Men and Women - Are There Differences?

Testerone and Stress and Aggression

As we look at the tend and befriend response in females, it does not preclude the idea that women can have hostility too, or that there is no such thing as female aggression.

The belief is that it occurs in different pathways in females, not in the testerone pathway (because all females do have some testerone, just like males have some estrogen).
In studies with rats, females only showed aggression if they felt threatened and it required them to defend themselves.

When higher levels of testosterone exist, there are higher levels of behavior and aggression, whether they are male or female. Researchers have found that women in prison who were convicted of violent crimes had higher levels of testosterone levels in their blood plasma and in their saliva.

Oxytocin May Counteract the Effect of Stress

It is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) that activates the flight or fight response. When the body is set in motion by stressors, a series of chemical releases pours through our system. Oxytocin is thought to counteract the effects of stress.

In studying stress in men and women, researchers have established that the sympathetic automomic nervous system becomes activated. This causes the release of oxytocin, and vasopressin, CRF (corticotrophin-releasing factor) from the hypothalamus.

Both males and females produce oxytocin, but females have it in greater amounts. Oxytocin is associated with labor, lactation and bonding.

Oxytocin decreases blood pressure, and decreases cortisol. Cortisol is related to the fight or flight response. It is theorized that females release oxytocin in response to stress, which increases the infant and mother attachment so that biologically we would not abandon our infants at a time of stress.

The oxytocin and estrogen relationship in females may make a women feel more relaxed compared to the male reaction to stress, being more aggressive. This is the basis of the tend and befriend response in females.

Tend and Befriend - The Difference of Stress in Men and Women

Response to Stress in Men and Women Has Evolutionary Beginnings

Nursing mothers have higher levels of oxytocin than non nursing mothers. There is the possibility that oxytocin may help calm infants. In 1989, a study was done with mothers and fathers who had stressful days at work.

Through questionnaires, it was found that fathers who had a stressful day were likely to withdraw from their families when they got home from work.

Females tended to take on more caretaking and nurturing activities when they got home from a stressful day compared to the days that were not as stressful. The male fight or flight response is associated with the release of vasopressin.

Vasopressin is enhanced by the presence of testosterone and make males take on a more defensive behavior. Structurally, vasopressin and oxytocin are similar, but vasopressin increases agression in males.

There are evolutionary benefits to the tend and befriend nature.

Survival is greater when one is in a group, than on their own. In primitive times, the male fight or flight response was probably designed to allow the male to run away from the threat. If he couldn’t run, he would fight, in order to protect himself.

Females would not be able to flee easily, while they are caring for their offspring.
Females would not be able to fight as easily, as they would make their children more vulnerable to being attacked, while they try to fend off the threat.

The tend and befreind female reponse is an evolutionary solution to this situation. Forming a bond with others, would ensure that their offspring would be cared for, and that they would get help in defending the threat. This would increase the liklihood of the survival for themselves and their offspring.

Stress in Men and Women - "Tend and Befriend"

Men still have the same investment and desire to ensure the safety of their offspring as women, but stress in men and women make stress hormones work differently, probably because of the more major nurturing role, the female plays.

From research such as this, stress in men and women may have a different responses, due mainly to our evolutionary survival.
In stressful situations, women tend to their offspring to protect them and also find relief in the presence of other women.

The main source of this stress response is found in the hormone oxytocin, which is generally associated with labor and lactation.
As women engage in the tend-and-befriend behavior, their levels of oxytocin increase, and reduce the amount of stress experienced.

Stress in Men and Women Releases Different Hormones

From research such as this, stress in men and women may have a different responses, due mainly to our evolutionary survival.

In stressful situations, women tend to their offspring to protect them and also find relief in the presence of other women. The main source of this stress response is found in the hormone oxytocin, which is generally associated with labor and lactation.

As women engage in the tend-and-befriend behavior, their levels of oxytocin increase, and reduce the amount of stress experienced.

There is some more research that needs to be done. Science is not sure what role individual personalities play in an individual’ response to stress. Some personality traits such as extroversion and openness, adapt well to getting along with others.

Women who have personality traits such as these and experience an increase in oxytocin through pregnancy are more likely to engage in befriending and more willing to create bonding experiences with other women.

But what about women who are introverted? How do they benefit from the friend and befriend response? Stress in men and women release hormones that create reactions to the real or perceived threats.

People respond differently to stress, but biologically, women may innately respond differently to stress than men do. Evolution has played a part in the reaction to stress in men and women. It may be due large part to survical of the fittest, and survival of our young.

A mother’s need to protect her children may naturally be different than a father’s. This may very well be the basis why the response to stress in men and women is different.

Stress in Men and Women - Give Us Your Opinion

Do You Think Women React Differently Than Men to Stress?

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Comments 4 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very interesting read; I knew most of this but you still had some points that I found new and interesting. Good job!


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi my friend, a very well written and interesting hub . Yes i would think that woman and men handle or deal with stress much different.

Well done and vote up !!!


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

I've always felt that Women can handle Stress better than men...Women have a support group in other women, we talk things out, when we are Stressed. Men on the other hand hold a lot of Emotions in. They talk SPORTS...but not what's bothering them.

Good Hub Toknowinfo, you've presented it well, and thoughtfully.


julia 3 years ago

I think that women are more susceptible to stress and often they show it with tears or quarreling, men are more serious they keep their emotions and try to find the solution as soon as possible. I've written about Stress Response in my blog and want to share:

http://cheapessaysonline.com/blog/paper-example-st...

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