Women tend to feel more guilt than men

January 26th, 2010 - 1:04 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 26 (IANS) Although changing social and cultural mores seem to have whittled down a sense of guilt today, this emotion is ’significantly higher’ among women than men, says a new study.
The main problem, according to experts, is not that women feel a lot of guilt (which they do), but rather that many men feel “too little”.

“Our initial hypothesis was that feelings of guilt are more intense among females, not only among adolescents but also among young and adult women…,” said Itziar Etxebarria, who led the study at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

The most common forms of guilt are related to situations which harm others. This arouses feelings of empathy for those we may have harmed, which tend to turn into feelings of guilt when we recognise that we are responsible for their suffering.

The research was carried out using a sample from three age groups (156 teenagers, 96 young people and 108 adults) equally divided between males and females.

The team of psychologists asked them what situations most often caused them to feel guilt. They also carried out interpersonal sensitivity tests - the Davis Empathetic Concern Scale, and a questionnaire on Interpersonal Guilt, created purposely for this study.

When it came to comparing the measurements of intensity of habitual guilt of these groups, the researchers saw that this score was significantly higher for women, in all three age groups.

“This difference is particularly stark in the 40-50-year-old age group,” points out Etxebarria. The data also suggest that female teenagers and young women have higher scores than males of the same age.

“This is caused by certain educational practices, which demand more of females, and which are sometimes still in use despite belief to the contrary”, claims Etxebarria, says a SINC release.

The experts say a lack of sensitivity could lead to absence or excessive weakness of certain kinds of guilt, such as empathetic guilt, which could be beneficial for interpersonal relationships and for the individual.

These findings were published in the Spanish Journal of Psychology.

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