Competition among women: Correlates and protective factors

Date

2009-08

Authors

Harris-McDonald, Kristin

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Abstract

Negative competition among women has been conceptualized as a negative and destructive desire to be superior to others, which has been theorized to involve attracting men, gaining power, or simply being better than others (Harris-McDonald & Mollen, 2006). Competition among women has been theorized to be detrimental to women's relationships with each other (Romney & Goli, 1991), to perpetuate myths of women as devious and petty (Brown, 2003), to contribute to a lack of support for women's issues (Cowan, Neighbors, DeLaMoreaux, & Behnke, 1998), and to maintain patriarchal societal structures (Meginnis & Bardari, 2000).

The present study focused on an examination of competition among women and its relationship with the variables of self-esteem, friendship intimacy, feminist identity development, hostility toward women, ethnicity, and age. In addition, the study examined the potential moderating function of the aforementioned variables on the relationship between competition among women and other variables. The research sample consisted of 563 diverse women from college and community populations. Participants completed an on-line survey containing questionnaires that assessed the variables listed above.

As predicted, results demonstrated that competition among women was negatively associated with feminist identity development, self-esteem, and age, and positively associated with hostility toward women. Results failed to support a negative relationship between competition among women and friendship intimacy. Contrary to predictions, results indicated no significant differences in levels of competition among women based on ethnicity. In addition, self-esteem and age were found to impact the relationship between competition among women and hostility toward women, respectively, by enhancing the relationship. However, moderating functions of the other study variables were not found.

While preliminary, findings suggest that competition among women is related to important variables that may impact the psychological health of women. The results indicate the need for increased investigations of variables related to competition among women. Implications for theory, research, and clinical practice are presented, along with limitations and suggestions for future research.

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Keywords

Social sciences, Psychology, Competition, Competition and age, Hostility, Hostility and competition, Women, Women and age, Women and self-esteem, Women's competition, Women's hostility

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