Saturday, August 12, 2006

Caregiving: Yes, women have more empathy
By ALEX CUKAN, UPI Health Correspondent Source: UPI
ALBANY, N.Y. (UPI) -- If the world had more children raised solely by fathers, would there be a lot less empathy? Some studies indicate that when it comes to empathy, women seem to have it all over men. "When we looked at family structure, we do find children raised without a mother -- solely by father -- do develop less empathy," Tom Smith, of the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago, told UPI's Caregiving. "It could be that mothers socialize children in the practice of empathy. Children learn what they see -- they learn by observing." But gender is not the whole story; spiritual beliefs are a factor as well, he said. "People who are more actively engaged in religion are more altruistic, according to studies of college students. "Altruistic behaviors were tracked -- returning excess change, giving directions, helping to take care of a house when people were away, donating blood, giving money to charity -- and those who were actively engaged in religion did these things because they had learned these behaviors were not selfish." When it comes to cold cash, gender also seems to make a difference. In a study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2001, University of Pittsburgh researchers found that men are more generous when the tip is inexpensive, but women stick to the recommended 15 percent to 20 percent tip. For example, when a man has a $3 drink, he might leave a $2 tip, but when it comes to a dinner for two that costs $200, he'll tip less than 15 percent, while a women tends to tip the same no matter what the amount of the bill, according to the researchers. One exception to the male-female divide: Men scored higher than women -- they expressed higher levels of altruism -- when their spouse was affected." Why? The men might feel chivalry towards their wives, but not toward people outside the family, according to Smith. Despite the chivalry theory, a study in 2001 showed that when a woman had brain cancer, more men left the marriage; however, when the man had a brain tumor, the wife tend to stay, according to Dr. Mike Glantz, a neuro-oncologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Nonetheless, most stayed married in sickness and in health, and many women who survive cancer with their marriages intact say they were strengthened because their husband "was there" for them. Dr. Larry Lachman, a California licensed clinical psychologist, says that the "Men Are From Mars" and "Women Are From Venus" concepts articulated in the early 1990s have not proven true under controlled and extensive studies; gender does not entirely predict behavior. "According to social psychology, men tend to have 'side to side' relationships, bonding with one another and their children through physical activities and hobbies like sports and athletics," Lachman told Caregiving. He said that in contrast to that "action-in-the-moment focus with common interest/behavior type of empathy, women tend to have 'face to face' relationships, bonding with one another and their children through sharing of feelings and emotions -- 'being-in-the-moment' focus with common feelings and thoughts," Lachman told Caregiving. My experience is that both men and women could have more empathy for the elderly and their caregivers. I know that compassion fatigue can occur awfully quickly. As a result, I tend not to mention the latest medical crisis until it is resolved and I can give a positive report. But most of the time I keep quiet about caregiving adventures. A few years ago, I told an acquaintance, who didn't want to hear about illness, what I thought was a safe story. I said my refrigerator, my television and computer all broke in the same week. Her response was, "Don't touch me." --


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