Gender Differences in Personality

This week, your forum assignment is about male and female differences in personality. What male and female differences in personality have you observed and where do you think they come from (e.g., are they learned, inborn, etc.)?

NOTE: If you believe more than one personality theory explains male/female differences, give concrete examples. Link the theory you choose solidly to the personality differences you describe to provide evidence of your thorough comprehension of your selected theory by your accurate application of it rather than just picking a theory by name and listing characteristics believed by the general public to differ between genders. You must describe how the theory you choose explains specific differences. MINIMUM 300 WORDS.

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Personality Theory

Created July 7, 2017 by userMark Kelland

Karen Horney stands alone as the only women recognized as worthy of her own chapter in many personality textbooks, and the significance of her work certainly merits that honor. She did not, however, focus her entire career on the psychology of women. Horney came to believe that culture was more important than gender in determining differences between men and women. After refuting some of Freud’s theories on women, Horney shifted her focus to the development of basic anxiety in children, and the lifelong interpersonal relationship styles and intrapsychic conflicts that determine our personality and our personal adjustment.

Personally, Horney was a complex woman. Jack Rubins, who knew Horney during the last few years of her life, interviewed many people who knew her and came away with conflicting views:

She was described variously as both frail and powerful, both open and reticent, both warm and reserved, both close and detached, both a leader and needing to be led, both timid and awesome, both simple and profound. From these characterizations, the impression emerges that she was not only a complex personality but changeable and constantly changing. She was able to encompass and unify, though with struggle, many diverse attitudes and traits… (pg. 13; Rubins, 1972)

Erich Fromm, who was a lay-analyst with a Ph.D. (not an M.D. like most early psychoanalysts), focused even more than Horney on social influences, particularly one’s relationship with society itself. He not only knew and worked with Horney personally, but the two were intimately involved for a number of years, and Fromm analyzed Horney’s daughter Marianne. Both Horney and Fromm can be seen as extending Adler’s emphasis on social interest and cooperation (or the lack thereof), and their belief that individuals pursue safety and security to overcome their anxiety is similar to Adler’s concept of striving for superiority.

Brief Biography of Karen Horney

Karen Clementine Theodore Danielssen was born on September 16th, 1885, in Hamburg, Germany. Her father was Norwegian by birth, but had become a German national. A successful sailor, he had become the captain of his own ship, and his family accompanied him on a few of his voyages, including trips around Cape Horn, along the west coast of South America, and as far north as San Diego in the United States. Those trips established a life-long interest in travel, foreign customs, and diversity in the young Karen Horney. Although her father was a stern and repressive man, her mother, who was Dutch and 17 years younger than Horney’s father, was a dynamic, intelligent, and beautiful woman who maintained a very happy home for the children (Kelman, 1971; Rubins, 1972, 1978).

From early childhood, Horney enjoyed reading, studying, and going to school. She was particularly interested in the novels of Karl May, who often wrote about the Native Americans, and Horney would play many games in which she pretended to be an Indian (usually, Chief Winnetou, a fictional character from May’s novels). Her father believed that education was only for men, but her mother encouraged Horney’s schooling, and in doing so, set an example of independence that greatly influenced Horney’s life and career. Horney followed the traditional education of the day, covering science, math, French, Latin, English, and the humanities. She also took special classes in speech, and for a time was very interested in dancing, drama, and the theatre. Despite the challenging curriculum, she was an excellent student, and often placed first in her class. After being impressed by a friendly country doctor when she was 12, she decided to pursue a career in medicine. When she began college at the University of Freiburg-in-Breisgau, at the age of 20, her mother came along to get her settled in and care for her. Horney soon became good friends with Ida Grote, who moved in with Horney and her mother to help offset the costs of attending college. In 1906, Horney also met her future husband, Oskar Horney (Kelman, 1971; Rubins, 1972, 1978).

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