According to a recent study, their suspicions are likely correct.
The study, conducted by psychologists at the University of Florida, was actually not meant to test the hypothesis that men are intimidated by women’s success.
The intention was simply to investigate heterosexual peoples’ responses to the success or failure of their partners, but it turned out that men and women responded significantly differently to their partners’ success.
When told that their partners scored in the top percentile on an intelligence test, women reported an improvement in their self-esteem, while men reported feeling worse about themselves.
It seems women are able to view their partners’ success as part of their own, while men view their own relative success as a key component of their self-esteem. Women also tended to have a positive outlook for the future of the relationship when their partners succeeded, while men tended to believe the relationship was headed downhill.
Since this study simply recorded the results of this phenomenon and did not investigate its causes, researchers can’t say for sure exactly what is causing men to feel intimidated by the success of their female partners. It could be because of deep-rooted societal norms that dictate men should be responsible for providing for their partners and families, or it could be that men are simply more competitive in general.
Whatever the reason for their insecurity, it seems men will have to learn to adopt to a society with an increasing number of female breadwinners. According to data published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009, 40 percent of primary breadwinners were women.
Experts predict that this percentage will continue to increase, with female breadwinners tipping the scales to become the majority by 2025. This is due to a combination of factors including more women than men getting college degrees, as well as largely male dominated industries getting hit especially hard in the recent recession.
There is some evidence that men are indeed adjusting. A 2008 study by the Families and Work Institute revealed that young men in 1977 were more likely to say men should be the primary breadwinners and women the primary caretakers, while they were much less likely to say this in 2008.
So it seems that most modern young men will at least say they don’t mind women being the primary breadwinners, but their feelings may still have some catching up to do.
Women, do you hold back in order to protect your man’s ego? This could be a form of self-sabotage. To learn more about self-sabotage, watch this free video.
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Gender Differences in Implicit Self-Esteem Following a Romantic Partner’s Success or Failure. http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-a0033769.pdf
Study Confirms Women’s Suspicions: Men Are Afraid Of Their Success. http://www.mintpressnews.com/study-confirms-womens-suspicion-men-are-afraid-of-their-success/168390/
Women: The New Breadwinners. http://www.elle.com/life-love/society-career/women-the-new-breadwinners-632791
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Last reviewed: 8 Oct 2013