Sex differences and similarities in the communication of social support

Daena J. Goldsmith*, Susan A. Dun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


A popular view holds that men and women differ in the types of social support they provide to distressed others: women provide emotional support and empathy while men offer instrumental support or try to minimize the importance of problems. Despite the prevalence of this view, there is limited evidence to support it. The present study sought to empirically assess the merit of this view. A total of 119 college students responded to seven situations involving a distressed other. Although women's responses were longer and contained more talk about emotions, women also talked more about instrumental actions than did men. Men devoted a greater proportion of their responses to talk about the problem and a larger proportion of their problem talk involved denying the problem. However, there were substantial similarities between men and women in the relative frequencies of different types of supportive responses used, and sex differences accounted for small percentages of variance. In contrast, situation exerted a strong, consistent influence on the responses of men and women alike.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-337
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1997


  • Sex differences
  • Social support
  • Support providers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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