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Males Believe Discussing Problems Is A Waste of Time, MU Study Shows

August 23, 2011

Psychology study contradicts popular idea that males need to feel safe to share feelings

August 22, 2011

Story Contact(s):

Steven Adams,, 573 882-8353

COLUMBIA, Mo. – A new University of Missouri study finds that boys feel that discussing problems is a waste of time.

“For years, popular psychologists have insisted that boys and men would like to talk about their problems but are held back by fears of embarrassment or appearing weak,” said Amanda J. Rose, associate professor of psychological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science.  “However, when we asked young people how talking about their problems would make them feel, boys didn’t express angst or distress about discussing problems any more than girls. Instead, boys’ responses suggest that they just don’t see talking about problems to be a particularly useful activity.”

Rose and her colleagues conducted four different studies that included surveys and observations of nearly 2,000 children and adolescents. The researchers found that girls had positive expectations for how talking about problems would make them feel, such as expecting to feel cared for, understood and less alone. On the other hand, boys did not endorse some negative expectations more than girls, such as expecting to feel embarrassed, worried about being teased, or bad about not taking care of the problems themselves. Instead, boys reported that talking about problems would make them feel “weird” and like they were “wasting time.”

“An implication is that parents should encourage their children to adopt a middle ground when discussing problems. For boys, it would be helpful to explain that, at least for some problems, some of the time, talking about their problems is not a waste of time. Yet, parents also should realize that they may be ‘barking up the wrong tree’ if they think that making boys feel safer will make them confide. Instead, helping boys see some utility in talking about problems may be more effective,” Rose said. “On the other hand, many girls are at risk for excessive problem talk, which is linked with depression and anxiety, so girls should know that talking about problems isn’t the only way to cope.”

Rose believes that the findings may play into future romantic relationships, as many relationships involve a “pursuit-withdraw cycle” in which one partner (usually the woman) pursues talking about problems while the other (usually the man) withdraws.

“Women may really push their partners to share pent-up worries and concerns because they hold expectations that talking makes people feel better. But their partners may just not be interested and expect that other coping mechanisms will make them feel better. Men may be more likely to think talking about problems will make the problems feel bigger, and engaging in different activities will take their minds off of the problem. Men may just not be coming from the same place as their partners,” Rose said.

The paper, “How Girls and Boys Expect Disclosure About Problems Will Make Them Feel: Implications for Friendships,” will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Child Development. The study was funded by the National Institute for Mental Health and was co-authored by current and former MU psychology graduate students Rebecca Schwartz-Mette, Rhiannon Smith, Lance Swenson, Wendy Carlson, and Erika Waller and Rose’s colleague Steven Asher.

NCFM Note: Or, we’d probably all feel better if when men and women talk together women talk a lot less and men talk a bit more. This study partially explains why women matriculate primarily to soft jobs (education, social services, and so on) which allow copious opportunities to verbalize and go to meetings where incessant talking is non stop. Perhaps this also explains why women think going to 10 or more meetings a week has the same value as men who risk their lives 24/7 fishing the Aleutians day after day. It might also explain why feminists believe in “connected ways of knowing” which problematically requires women to talk with one another for validation. Women simply place a higher value on talking than do men who prefer to be doing something more productive. Men create while women articulate. Of course, that’s my perspective as a man. I’m sure if I were a women this explanation would be noticeably different and substantially wordier.

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9 Responses to Males Believe Discussing Problems Is A Waste of Time, MU Study Shows

  1. CyclotronMajesty on August 27, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    Those who know do not speak, those who speak do not know.
    The sage teaches without the use of words.

    – Lao tzu.

  2. Redangel on August 25, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    The more I check your website, the more I think your writers, subscribers, and employees either had really MEAN moms, or they were rejected by the pretty girl in secondary school. You whine about your decline in rights ? then whine that women talk to much? If you expect us to respect your differences, you should retain some empathy for how the other half behaves. Also, your community as a group tends to whine about "soft" jobs. Why is that something to be devalued? Is this a pro-working class bias you adhere to? I haven't seen any whining about male philosphers who didn't seem to do much but blow hot air and live in bathtubs.

    Also, I have to wonder, when you whine about women not participating in "real/hard physical labor" jobs, I have to think that the men in those jobs probably wouldn't take kindly to a lil' ole girl trying to do such work. Remember boyz, just because you have heavy lifting ability, that doesn't make you superior. If we didn't have babies for you to build houses for (hoist up beams), what would you do?

    • Good Old Fred on August 27, 2011 at 5:55 AM

      OK Redangel, When I did empathetic-ally talk with my wife, she never wanted to solve the problem. She just wanted to vent and vent and vent endlessly. Then she wanted to do it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, never getting to a conclusion.
      Now, no woman ever had a baby as a "favor" to a man to generously give him a motivation to work. Women have babies to live out the thing that gives them the most biological satisfaction.
      If you didn't give us a baby to build a house for, we would simply play football, go fishing, build a hot-rod, or, advance medicine, grow food, build roads, collect the garbage or travel to space.
      We love relationships with women, especially the good ones, and we like to play with them too, just as a baseball game allows us to play with men. But very few of us need them to justify getting up in the morning. Your self-serving view sells men way to short.
      Heavy lifting doesn't make men superior? Just ask the woman who asked me to help her move from one apartment to another last week. "My God, I can't believe you did this whole job in one day. I don't think I could have done this in a whole week," she said.

      • Naeryn on August 29, 2011 at 6:34 PM

        I agree with you about most of this.

        I feel the need to say, however, that no, your ability to do heavy lifting does NOT make you superior, any more than womens' ability to multitask makes us superior. Your abilities are just as crucial to the survival of humanity as a whole as women's are, and vice versa. It doesn't make you better – it makes you valuable.

    • CyclotronMajesty on August 27, 2011 at 12:14 PM

      Celebrate. Redangel, celebrate.

      Redangel, little do you know you cannot be reasoned with, your not here to do anything but feed like a unconscious vampire. You are just raw passion, arrogance and hostility, go get laid and get over your emptiness. And stop bitching like a menstruating rejected lesbian. Women like you only respond to rancor and force, your egocentrism must be coercively humbled. Because your an intractable weakness of nothingness. U know if you were out alone in the wilderness with a man with nobody around, you would never talk like that, because you would get what you deserve real quick.

      You are totally right though! Not only were we abused by our mothers, but we were rejected by all the pretty girls, and even the ugly ones! Hell i've even been rejected by a DOG! Even a snail!

      Whine whine whine. Now were gonna take it out on you.
      Hahahaha. Whine your prissy ears off you worthless misandrist!

      P.S. Get a sex change, your cowardly poison is stinking up the place, you parasitic selfish festering miserable pile of rotting forlorn puss.

      • Naeryn on August 29, 2011 at 6:32 PM

        And then you wonder why we can't communicate.

        Now, I think the OP here was being inflammatory and unfair. I myself have struggled to keep my "screw you, oppressors!" attitude toward men under wraps, as I am aware that I have some unfair bias in that area. However, biting back this way really won't get anything accomplished, will it?

        Saying things like "Women like you only respond to rancor and force" and "If you were alone in the wilderness with a man [then] you would get what you deserve real quick" does nothing but reinforce the image of men as controlling, dangerous abusers.

        Her original statement about being rejected was unfair, as that is not what these mens' issues are about. However, your retort about being rejected even by a dog is equally unfair, and damages your own cause. I know that, as a woman, I am far less sympathetic to someone who appears to be lashing out due to rejection than someone who presents a well thought out argument in favour of mens' rights. Abused by your mother? That is terrible, and she should be prosecuted for child abuse just as much as any male child abuser should. Rejected by a pretty girl? Suck it up. It may not even have had anything to do with you!

        I do not mean anything here to be offensive or inflammatory, and if it is, I am sorry. It just seems to me that alienating one half of the population – especially when you feel that our half is the side that's in control – is not the way to achieve your goals. Many of us feel that you are the ones with the power. Does it not seem, then, that the best way for us ALL to reach a point where we feel free, strong, and independent, is to work together, rather than fight with each other?

  3. Glen on August 24, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    “No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you'll see why.”
    Mignon McLaughlin quotes (American Journalist and Author, 1913-1983)

  4. Ray2447 on August 24, 2011 at 3:45 AM

    It's ironic how much this research aptly describes relationships I've known.

  5. Marc on August 23, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    LOL great comment from NCFM.

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