Age and gender differences in adults’ descriptions of emotional reactions to interpersonal problems

This study examines age and gender differences in descriptions of emotional reactions and reports of the intensity and duration of those emotional responses to interpersonal tensions. As part of a larger study, 185 (85 male and 100 female) participants aged 13 to 99 described the last time they were upset with members of their social networks. Participants then described how they felt and rated the intensity and duration of their distress. Participants' reported emotions were grouped by use of theoretically derived categories and empirically derived post hoc categories. Three emotion categories were examined: anger, sadness, and nonspecific negative emotions. Adolescents and young adults were more likely than older adults to describe anger. Adolescents and young adults also reported more intense aversive responses than older adults. Women rated their distress as more intense than men. With the exception of middle-aged and oldest-old adults, women reported that they experienced distress for a longer duration than men. Findings are interpreted in terms of theories regarding age and gender differences in emotion regulation and interpersonal tensions. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]