Situational influences on gender differences in agency and communion

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1994 Apr;66(4):753-61. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.66.4.753.


Gender differences were examined in the context of situational effects. Participants monitored interpersonal behavior for 20 days, using an event-sampling strategy. The monitored behaviors reflected dominance and submissiveness (components of agency) and agreeableness and quarrelsomeness (components of communion). The situations reflected differences in the status of work roles: interactions with boss, co-worker, and supervisee. Status influenced agency. Individuals were most agentic when with a supervisee and least agentic when with a boss. Gender did not influence agency but did influence communal behaviors. Women were more communal regardless of social role status; women were especially communal with other women, compared with men with men. Findings about agency supported a social role theory interpretation of gender differences. Results for communion were consistent with accounts of the influence of sex segregation on interpersonal relationships.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality
  • Role
  • Sex Factors