There are many areas in life where it can be noticed that
men and women respond differently in a number of situations. Recent research
with brain imaging has shown that each gender responds differently to stress.
The main difference seems to be that stress caused changes in men’s
right prefrontal cortex and in their left orbito-frontal cortex. These areas
are usually associated with what is known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction.
Thus it can be expected that men deal with problems that cause them stress by
going into ‘fight-mode’ that could in some instances involve aggression, or
they respond with avoidance and withdrawal.
This is very different for women under stress. For them
changes were noticed in their limbic system, the part of the brain that is
mainly involved in relationships, attachments, and emotions. This indicates that women may respond to
stress with changes in mood (depression) and with what is known as the
‘tend-and-befriend’ dynamic by becoming nurturing and seeking connections with
others to maximise support.
These two very different coping styles seem to be rooted in
the evolutionary past of humans, when the division of responsibilities had
males hunting, fighting, and protecting whilst females tended to the well being
and functioning of the group or community.
Nowadays the nature of stressors people face has changed and
both styles of coping with stress create a distinct set of problems if people
unconsciously act as if they are still living in the Stone Age. Most stressors
today have to do with people’s relationships or the lack thereof, how they compensate
for their insecurities, and how they follow their ambitions.
These modern stressors require strategies that are much more
complex than ‘fight-or-flight’ or ‘tend-and-befriend’. Following the Darwinian
insights of evolution, it can be expected that those people will be successful
who can adjust to modern stressors with strategies that use both male and
female strengths of problem solving.
This article was inspired by the following research: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
(2007, November 20). Brain Imaging Shows How Men And Women Cope Differently
Under Stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 1,
2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2007/11/071119170133.htm