Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Married people--Psychology; Communication--Sex differences; Marriage--Psychological aspects; Empathy; Satisfaction


Research suggests that as individuals age, sex-role behaviors become less pronounced, resulting in increasingly androgynous behavior patterns in both men and women. One change involves an increase in traditional feminine behavior patterns in aging men, most notably an increase in empathy. If men become more empathic as they age, it is plausible that this would have an impact on their marital interactions. This study assessed differences in empathy in married men in two age groups (40 - 55 years of age and 60 - 75 years of age), and evaluated the effect these differences have on both the communication patterns within marital dyads and on global marital satisfaction. It was predicted that older husbands would rate themselves as more empathic than younger husbands, and that this difference would also be evident in wives' ratings of husbands' empathy. It was also predicted that levels of husband empathy would be positively correlated with both positive marital communication patterns and global reports of marital satisfaction by both spouses. Forty middle-aged couples and 40 older couples were surveyed regarding husbands' levels of empathy, positive communication patterns within the marriage, and global levels of marital satisfaction. Consistent with earlier research, the results support the theory that men become more empathic as they age. In addition, results indicate that the level of male empathy is positively correlated with positive verbal interaction within the marital dyad, as well as global marital satisfaction. Husbands and wives showed significant agreement regarding all three variables. These findings have implications for understanding gender related social behavior across the lifespan. The findings also have implications for improved understanding of marital relationships as couples age, and for the assessment and treatment of marital discord.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [44]-50)


iv, 71 pages




Northern Illinois University

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