Gender communication differences

Published 24 Feb 2017


The study aimed to determine the effects of gender communication differences in traditional marriages. A multi-level quantitative design was employed on a sample size of 15 married couples. Two sets of survey questionnaires measuring communication differences and marital satisfactions were administered to the sample. The results showed a very strong correlation between effective communication and marital satisfaction. Results also indicated a significant difference between the communication styles of husbands and wives at α = 0.05. Husbands were found to use logic based communication techniques while their wives were found to use non-verbal direction based communication techniques. It was concluded that gender communication differences did have significant effects on traditional marriages with respect to marital satisfaction.

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Men and women communicate differently. Two people of opposite gender joined in marriage have two very different styles of communication to the extent that this problem is sometimes insurmountable. Lack of clear communication between partners in a traditional marriage is often cited as the cause for divorce. What often occurs “is not a failure to communicate, but a failure to understand communication” (Akin, 2003, 1).
Long before technology took over society and created more avenues for communicating with each, men were used to showing support by “doing things” for the family and women showed their affection through talking (Torrpa, 2002, 1). Women expect their marital relationship to be based on mutual dependence and cooperation while men expect it to be based on independence and competition (Torppa, 2002, 1). Clearly, these two different sets of expectations will have an effect on how the two partners communicate and ultimately, on the strength of the union.

According to Ohashi (1993) marriage is a system established on the assumption of a division of labor based on gender-role stereotypes (from Katsurada, Sugihara, 2002, 2). Women traditionally tend to want to “make everyone happy” while men make decisions based largely on their own personal needs (Torrpa, 2002, 1) – one aspect of marriage that is unchanged for the most part yet responsible for many breaks in communication between the partners.

Differences in characteristic gender roles also affect communication between husband and wife. Typically, women are characterized as being the more talkative of the sexes as well as being comfort providers and more secure in showing their emotions. Women are also better at “reading between the lines” regarding interpersonal issues (Torrpa, 2002, 1). Men, on the other hand, are known for their distinct lack of communication and inability to provide emotional support. Their ability to “read between the lines” regarding status is more pronounced than in women.

With traditional roles in marriage declining and technology taking over, communication is at once both more effective and less available (Morris, 2001, 1) – we have more ways of communicating (e.g. text messaging, Email, etc.) but we have less time to do so with multiple careers., 2002, 1) and without the ability to communicate effectively, this assumption can be quite damaging to the marriage. Both male and female partners tend to see the other as being more controlling of the relationship (Torppa

This research will explore the varying roles of a man and woman in a traditional marriage relationship, how these roles influence their ability to effectively communicate and the level of satisfaction each partner feels based on their idea of whether or not they are communicating effectively with each other regarding important issues. According to Torrpa (2002, 1): “understanding differences is the key to working them out”


Among the different complaints received from couples in traditional marriages regarding their respective relationships with one another, problems in communication surface as the most common and detrimental. One explanation is that effective communication necessarily involves the ability to express one’s own thoughts and emotions in one’s own ways. The problem is that men and women tend to have different overall patterns and styles of communication known as emotional expressivity (Hаlbеrstаdt et. al.1995). Several sources offer various definitions for communication expressivity (Gross & John, 1998), but the most encompassing would be that it is “аn individual’s persistent pattern or style of exhibiting nonverbal and verbal expressions that often, but not always, appear to be emotion-related.” (Hаlbеrstаdt et. al., 1995, p. 93)
Many studies have discovered that the communication pattern dominant in women is highly related to indicators of their marital satisfaction (Cаrstеnsеn, Gottmаn, & Lеvеnson, 1995; Fееnеy, Nollеr, & Robеrts, 1998; Gill, Christеnsеn, & Finchаm, 1999). This connection can be better traced more conveniently by combining women’s communication ratings into single communication scores for the couple. However, some studies point out that this approach may obscure the gender differences consistently found in communication between married couples (Cаrstеnsеn еt аl., 1995; Kring & Gordon, 1998). This underscores the relevance of researching about how differences in communication expressivity between men and women affect marital relationship status and quality among traditional couples (Hаlbеrstаdt еt аl., 1995).

Extensive еvidence points out that women are more emotionally еxprеssivе than mеn. This suggests thаt thе communicаtion of thе wifе mаy bе morе prеdictivе thаn hеr husbаnd’s of mаritаl functioning. Society expects that wives are supposed to be more responsible for their marriage’s emotional tenor than their husbands (Cаnciаn & Gordon, 1988). Wood, et. al. (1989) claims the same in part because of women’s greater emotional investment in close relationships such that they may even play the role of еmotionаl spеciаlists in thеir mаrriаgеs (Аlеxаndеr & Wood, 2000; Wood еt аl., 1989). These research findings suggest that a couple wherein the wife has low expressivity especially of positive emotions may in fact have lower marital satisfaction ratings as compared to a couple where the wife is highly expressive of positive emotions (Hаlbеrstаdt еt аl., 1995). As for the husband’s expressivity levels, it has been found that such ratings may be diluted once the wives’ levels are accounted for (Аlеxаndеr & Wood, 2000; Wood еt аl., 1989). In thе prеsеnt research study, thе rolе of gеndеr in еmotionаl communicаtion аnd its rеlаtionship with marriage quаlity is examined.

There are three main objectives for this study. First, this study aims to determine the correlation between effective communication and marital satisfaction. This objective seeks to discover whether or not couples that communicate with each other more effectively are more likely to be satisfied with their married lives. Second, this study aims to determine whether there is a significant difference between the communication styles of men and women. This objective seeks to establish the existence or non-existence of inherent psychological differences in the way that men and women communicate messages. The study’s third objectives is to synthesize inferences found in the first two objectives in order to determine whether or not differences between the communication styles of men and women do affect marital satisfaction.



Several statistical tests were used in the study. Correlation analysis using Pearson’s correlation coefficient r was used to determine any correlations that the results had with respect to demographic data gathered from the couples. Correlation tests were also used to determine whether couple’s communication styles are related to their marital satisfaction rating. Significant difference testing using paired t-tests were applied on the scores gathered from the husbands and wives on marital satisfaction rating in order to determine if one spouse is generally more satisfied about their marriage than the other. Furthermore, paired t-tests were also used to determine if there are significant differences between the communication styles of husbands and wives. Finally, scores in the task assessment were compared with spouses’ communication styles to determine whether or not any differences in the communication styles may have had detrimental effects in the successful completion of the task.

The correlation tests showed that several demographic factors may have effects upon the two factors measured by the instruments in the study. First, it was found that there was a strong correlation between the numbers of years spent in the marriage with marital satisfaction. The data revealed that for both men and women, there is a strong correlation (r=0.70) that suggested a direct correlation between how long they’ve been in their marriage with how satisfied they were about it. Furthermore, men’s educational attainment seemed to have a moderate (r=0.51) correlation with how satisfied they are with their marriages. Men with higher educational attainment seem to be more satisfied with their marital relationships. This same trend cannot be seen in women. However, women’s scores showed that age was inversely correlated with marital satisfaction (r=0.62). Correlation tests performed between communication success and marital satisfaction showed a very strong positive correlation (r=0.85) indicating that successful communication was directly related to marital satisfaction.
Paired t-tests on the marital satisfaction ratings between men and women showed no significant difference at a 95% confidence level. The obtained t-value of 0.520 was less than the critical value of 1.761indicating that husbands in the sample were just about as satisfied with their marriage as their wives. On the other hand, the tests performed on the couple’s communication styles showed a significant difference at the same confidence level between the communication styles used by men and women. A t-value of 2.75 was obtained which was greater than the critical value (1.761) showing that women were more inclined to have non-verbal direction based communication styles while their husbands tended to have logic based communication styles.

Finally, analysis of the data in the task completion exercise showed that the type of communication styles greatly affected the success of the exercise. Couples that have more similar communication styles tended to complete the task more successfully that couples who had very different communication styles.


The strong correlation found between the numbers of years spent in the marriage and marital satisfaction support the conclusions of Gill et. al. (1999) regarding factors that affected marital satisfaction. It was significant to note that while there was an existence of strong correlation between husbands’ educational attainment and their marital satisfaction, the same was not observed with their wives. This could be due to an inherent effect of education on males which was not present in women with respect to their sense of satisfaction over marital relationships. It could be that as men get educated, they become more understanding of their partners and thus become more satisfied with their relationships. Since wives were already found to be emotionally more mature than their husbands (Hаlbеrstаdt еt аl., 1995), it makes sense that their educational attainment would not affect their marital satisfaction ratings. The strong correlation found between marital satisfaction and effective communication affirms the relevance of the study. It also rationalizes the need to test for whether or not couples are capable of ensuring effective communication between one another given the hypothesized differences between their communication techniques. This hypothesis was proven by the paired t-test performed between the communication styles of husbands and their respective wives. The results suggest that husbands do tend to think more logically and therefore communicate instructions using logic based techniques while women tend to do so using non-verbal and more emotion based techniques. The test affirmed that there was an inherent difference found between the communication styles of men and women. If these inferences are synthesize with the results of correlative tests performed between effective communication and marital satisfaction, it can be deduced that the differences in communication styles between men and women did affect their marital satisfaction rating since marital satisfaction was tied closely with effective communication. Although the small sample size might have affected the general ability to examine associations between the factors considered, the obtained values for both correlation tests and paired t-tests are high enough to make the results reliable. It can be recommended that some of the relationships observed from the results that were not yet explored by current researches such as the relationship between women’s age and their marital satisfaction be considered for further study. It may also be recommended that the same procedure used in this research be applied to a larger sample size representative of different types of marriages.

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