Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's Called Love

So many studies simply beg to be looked at in greater detail and I don't have enough time. My beady eye spotted this one some days ago:

A rocky romantic relationship can cause significant stress, but contrary to conventional wisdom, its impact may be harder on young men than on young women, new research indicates.

Though previous research has long suggested that unmarried young women are more vulnerable than men to tough times in romantic relationships, the opposite seems to be true, according to research by sociologists at Wake Forest University and Florida State University.

As a complete aside, think of the difference between 'conventional wisdom' and 'old wives' tales.'

It's always tricky to do survey research, you know, especially on a topic where the answers themselves probably are at least partly affected by societal gender roles and what one thinks of as the proper answers. I'm not saying that this study wouldn't be a well done study or that the write-up would not be acceptable. I just find the summary a bit confusing.

But this is rather interesting if true:

* Problems in relationships seem to threaten young men's identity and feelings of self-worth, but this doesn't seem to be the case for young women.

It is 180 degrees from that 'conventional wisdom.' Women are supposed to be defined by their relationships, like totally, and men are supposed to be defined by their jobs.

I have now idea if that conclusion in the quotes is warranted or not. Just pointing out that we are not going to have the researchers of this study on every morning television program or daytime television show, telling the eager audience about how men and women really are.

It's going to go down the Memory Hole because it is not the received wisdom. But if true it's evidence against many of the current pseudo-trends.

For example, take the conservative argument that young women are destroying themselves and their chances of any happiness in life (through heterosexual marriage, natch) by refusing to be the gatekeepers for premarital sex, the kind of gatekeepers which keep the gate shut while young men are eagerly battering on it, trying to be admitted, as is their obvious role in life.

This view of men and women and romance assumes that men don't need any or want any and that the only reason why they'd ever date or get married is so that they can get through that gate. It's a commercial game, this conservative definition of love: I'll let you in if you buy me dinner for the next decades.

So I kinda like that finding because it points out that all human beings are affected by love. It's a real thing. The first symptom is usually sheep's eyes. Check for those.

At the same time, I'm not sure if we can conclude that men are more affected by relationships troubles in general:

Robin Simon, PhD, a professor at Wake Forest, and Anne Barrett, PhD, of FSU, studied the emotional reactions of 1,611 unmarried adults between the ages of 18 and 23.

They conclude that:

* The harmful stress of a roller-coaster relationship is more likely to affect the mental health of young men than young women.
* A recent breakup from a romantic relationship affects the mental health of young women more than young men.
* Young women are more emotionally affected than their romantic partners when it comes to being in a relationship or not. Young men, on the other hand, are more affected emotionally by the quality of their current relationships.

Simon tells WebMD that young men and women "are both affected by negative aspects, and by good ones, but when you look at both, men are more affected emotionally by both good and bad relationships."

Perhaps. I'd need to look at the study itself to assess that. But note that the border between a roller-coaster relationship and one that has ended is a rather vague and also note that the quality of a relationship also sorta fades into not having one at some point.

Note also that if the study had been written to just look at young people in general and their reactions to relationships and romance nobody would have bothered to even summarize the study. You gotta have a gender difference, gotta.