So late in the evening last Thursday I found myself absent-mindedly scrolling through Twitter, as I am sure many of my peers have done. And I happened upon a message from one of the many joke accounts set up just to get a reaction out of people. Considering the language used, I cannot exactly repeat what was said here but the gist was to get a laugh out of the assumption that women complain more than men. As I got around to thinking about potential topics, this seemed like one to be explored, as I have many friends of both genders. Even though I have heard an innumerable amount of complaints over my 18 years (and uttered more than my fair share myself!) I didn’t notice any major difference between the two sexes. I therefore predicted that science would have found the same.
But I underestimated just how broad a topic this was. From scouring various sources, it appears that men and women each have different areas where they complain more than the other. As consumers, the Journal of Consumer Research conducted a study involving over 400 people as to whether they were likely to tell someone else about a bad shopping experience. The survey stated females were much more likely to talk to someone about a poor experience, especially their close friends. A White House study, using only 2 years for data over 30 years apart, found that men are the bigger whiners in the slightly more vague area of “work-family” conflicts. Some reasons were helpfully thrown out by the author, but they were nothing more than hypotheses, as the study didn’t ask for any specifics in its reporting. The best-rounded study I found though was a 2006 study by Women and Language that found more definitively than either of the two prior examples that the sexes complain for different reasons, but one does not necessarily complain more than the other.
That was pretty much all there was to be found on the Web on the subject. This I thought fascinating, as I thought this would be a relatively mainstream topic. It appears that not a lot of other research appears to have been done on the subject. Therefore, with no real findings in one way or the other, the null hypothesis (neither gender complaining substantially more than the other) has yet to be rejected. If I had to guess a reason for this, I would say that in a list of important issues that science is tackling at the present, this would have to be very low on the priority list. But the file drawer problem could also come into play in this situation. Low priority by publishers could have led to crucial data being stored away from public viewing, leaving the question unresolved. But with the limited resources available to me, my own personal hypothesis appears to tentatively hold up to the research that has been gathered so far.