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Interactive effects of social context and sex role identity on female self-disclosure during the acquaintance process

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Female subjects who differed in masculinity and in femininity self-disclosed to a same-sex confederate in contexts that made either social/expressive motives or instrumental motives particularly salient. The confederate spoke first on each of four disclosure topics, presenting either intimate or nonintimate information in her disclosures. The results were consistent with our primary assertion that measures of sex role identity would accurately forecast contextual variations in female self-disclosure. Specifically, femininity tended to promote self-disclosure in social/expressive contexts while clearly inhibiting such exchanges in the instrumental context. Supplementary data revealed that the tendency of highly feminine participants to “close up” in the instrumental context stemmed not from problems in their contemporaneous interpersonal relationships with their partners, but rather from a concern that disclosing too much might adversely affect their partners' evaluation of their competencies. Although masculinity did not exert direct effects of female self-disclosure within any particular context, it did have an influence, for subjects high in femininity were highly self-revealing across contexts if they were also high in masculinity (i.e., androgynous).

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Author information

Correspondence to David R. Shaffer.

Additional information

This research was supported by National Institute of Mental health Grant MH 43726-01 to David R. Shaffer.

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Shaffer, D.R., Pegalis, L. & Cornell, D.P. Interactive effects of social context and sex role identity on female self-disclosure during the acquaintance process. Sex Roles 24, 1–19 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00288699

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  • Direct Effect
  • Interactive Effect
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Context
  • Supplementary Data