The influence of gender and emotional versus instrumental support on cardiovascular reactivity in African-American adolescents

Ann Behav Med. Summer 1999;21(3):235-43. doi: 10.1007/BF02884840.


Research suggests that females seek out, prefer, and are more receptive to emotional support (encouragement), and that males seek out, prefer, and are more receptive to instrumental support (problem-solving). Thus, we hypothesized that boys would show lower blood pressure (BP) reactivity in response to instrumental than emotional or no support, and that girls would show lower BP reactivity in response to emotional than instrumental or no support. Forty-eight healthy African-American adolescents (50% males) participated in a role play conflict task and were randomized to receive either emotional, instrumental, or no support (presence only) from a confederate. Boys showed lower systolic blood pressure (SBP) reactivity in the instrumental than in the emotional or no support conditions and lower recovery SBP as compared to boys in the emotional or no support conditions. A similar pattern of results was demonstrated for diastolic blood pressure (DBP) reactivity. Girls, however, did not demonstrate lower BP reactivity in response to emotional as compared to instrumental support. These findings suggest that instrumental and emotional support differentially influence cardiovascular (CV) reactivity in African-American boys versus girls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Affect / physiology*
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Role Playing
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support*