Intimacy: Gender differences in the marital dyad at two stages of life

Linda Norman Wade, Fordham University


Studies of intimacy have suggested that women may be more invested in the intimacy process than men. Theories which address change across the life span have suggested that as persons age they may become more like the opposite gender. The purpose of the present dissertation research was to examine potential gender differences in married couples in young adulthood and mid-life and to explore the use of various measures and concepts of intimacy. The independent variables in the design were gender and life stage. The dependent variables were intimacy and marital satisfaction. The three measures of intimacy included self-disclosure to spouse and friend (Jourard Self-Disclosure Questionnaire), Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationships and the Intimate Relations Interview. It was hypothesized that all intimacy measures and marital satisfaction would be related to each other, that women would score higher on intimacy measures than men, that mid-life men would score higher on intimacy measures than young adult men, that mid-life women would score lower on intimacy measures than young adult women and that mid-life couples would score higher on marital satisfaction than young adult couples. The study was conducted with fifty married couples divided into two groups of equal size--the young adult group and the mid-life group. Data were analyzed using correlations across the entire sample, a series of univariate analyses of variance with repeated measures and analysis of covariance with conventionality as the covariate. Most intimacy variables were related to each other and to marital satisfaction. The two paper and pencil measures revealed significantly higher scores for women than for men on all intimacy variables except emotional intimacy. However, the women in both groups reported a significantly greater difference between their scores for perceived emotional intimacy and desired emotional intimacy than did their husbands. This finding suggests that women may not be receiving as much emotional intimacy as they desire. None of the predicted differences were found in the interview analyses, nor were any of the predicted stage or stage by gender differences found on any measure.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Wade, Linda Norman, "Intimacy: Gender differences in the marital dyad at two stages of life" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8818482.