1. Higher estrogen levels linked to increased alcohol sensitivity in brain’s ‘reward center’

    November 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois at Chicago press release:

    The reward center of the brain is much more attuned to the pleasurable effects of alcohol when estrogen levels are elevated, an effect that may underlie the development of addiction in women, according to a study on mice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

    Led by Amy Lasek, assistant professor of psychiatry in the UIC College of Medicine, researchers found that neurons in a region of the brain called the ventral tegmental area, or VTA (also known as the “reward center”), fired most rapidly in response to alcohol when their estrogen levels were high. This response, according to their findings published online in the journal PLOS ONE, is mediated through receptors on dopamine-emitting neurons in the VTA.

    “When estrogen levels are higher, alcohol is much more rewarding,” said Lasek, who is the corresponding author on the paper and a researcher in the UIC Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics. “Women may be more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol or more likely to overindulge during certain stages of their cycle when estrogen levels are higher, or may be more likely to seek out alcohol during those stages.”

    Studies indicate that gender differences in psychiatric disorders, including addiction, are influenced by estrogen, one of the primary female sex hormones. Women are more likely to exhibit greater escalation of abuse of alcohol and other drugs, and are more prone to relapse in response to stress and anxiety.

    The VTA helps evaluate whether something is valuable or good. When neurons in this area of the brain are stimulated, they release dopamine — a powerful neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of wellness — and, in large doses, euphoria. When something good is encountered — for example, chocolate — the neurons in the VTA fire more rapidly, enforcing reward circuitry that encodes the idea that chocolate is enjoyable and something to be sought out. Over time, the VTA neurons fire more quickly at the sight, or even thought of, chocolate, explained Lasek. In addiction, VTA neurons are tuned into drugs of abuse, and fire more quickly in relation to consuming or even thinking about drugs, driving the person to seek them out — often at the expense of their own health, family, friends and jobs.

    Many animal studies have shown that alcohol increases the firing of dopamine-sensitive neurons in the VTA, but little is known about exactly why this occurs.

    Lasek and her colleagues examined the relationship between estrogen, alcohol and the VTA in female mice. They used naturally cycling mice that were allowed to go through their normal estrous cycles, akin to the menstrual cycle in women.

    Mice were evaluated to determine when they entered diestrus — the phase in the estrous cycle when estrogen levels are close to their peak.

    “In mice in diestrus, estrogen levels increase to about 10 times higher than they are in estrus, the phase in which ovulation occurs and estrogen levels drop,” Lasek said.

    VTAs were taken from mice in both estrus and diestrus and kept alive in special chambers. Electrodes recorded the activity of individual dopamine-sensitive neurons in the VTA. Next, the researchers added alcohol to the chamber. Activity increased twice as much in neurons from mice in diestrus compared to the response of neurons from mice in estrus.

    Lasek and her colleagues then blocked estrogen receptors on dopamine-sensitive neurons in VTA in mice in estrus and diestrus. With the blocker present, the response to alcohol in neurons from mice in diestrus was significantly lower compared with neurons where estrogen receptors remained functional. The estrogen receptor blocker reduced the alcohol response to levels seen in mice in estrus. The responses to alcohol in neurons from mice in estrus were unaffected by the estrogen receptor blocker.

    “The increased reward response to alcohol we see when estrogen levels are high is mediated through receptors for estrogen in the VTA,” said Mark Brodie, professor of physiology and biophysics in the UIC College of Medicine and a co-author on the paper.

    Lasek believes that the increased sensitivity to alcohol in the VTA when estrogen levels peak may play a significant role in the development of addiction in women.

    “We already know that binge drinking can lead to lasting changes in the brain, and in women, those changes may be faster and more significant due to the interaction we see between alcohol, the VTA and estrogen,” Lasek said. “Binge drinking can increase the risk of developing alcoholism, so women need to be careful about how much alcohol they drink. They should be aware that they may sometimes inadvertently over-consume alcohol because the area of the brain involved in alcohol reward is responding very strongly.”


  2. Study suggests absentee dads affect how women interpret interest from men

    November 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Utah press release:

    Women who grow up without a caring father, or who even are reminded of painful and disappointing experiences with their father, see more sexual intent in men.

    New research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that women who were reminded of a time that their dad was absent from their lives — or who actually experienced poor quality fathering while growing up — perceived greater mating intent in the described behaviors of a hypothetical male dating partner and when talking with a man. These women also “saw” more sexual arousal when viewing images of men’s faces.

    “This research underscores an important psychological change — perceiving greater sexual interest among men — that could increase a woman’s likelihood of engaging in unrestricted or risky sexual behavior in response to growing up with a disengaged father,” said Danielle J. DelPriore, a University of Utah postdoctoral fellow and lead author.

    The new research was co-authored by University of Utah psychology professor Bruce J. Ellis, and professor Sarah E. Hill and graduate student Randi Proffitt Leyva of the Department of Psychology at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.

    DelPriore noted that research has long shown relationships between a dad’s behavior and a daughter’s sexual development, from when she becomes sexually mature to when she first engages in sexual activity. But, DelPriore said, “we don’t really know how one leads to the other.”

    Some research has suggested a potential genetic explanation, with men who are genetically inclined to engage in socially deviant or risky behaviors being more likely to have daughters with the same inclinations. The new study suggests that shared genes are not the whole story.

    The authors employed a randomized design to demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships. They were able to show that being reminded of painful and disappointing experiences with one’s father caused daughters to increase their perceptions of men’s sexual interest, “a shift that is linked with greater engagement in sexual behavior,” DelPriore said.

    The researchers ran five different studies in which half of the female participants were randomly assigned to remember a time when their birth father was absent from an important life event. For comparison purposes, the other half of the participants across studies were either asked to recall a time that their father was present, or that their mother was absent, for an important event.

    The second phase of each study prompted the women to rate the sexual and romantic interest of men based on the following: described behavior of a hypothetical dating partner (from holding hands to flirting), viewing male facial portraits, or interacting with a potential partner via a video screen.

    In each study, the researchers found evidence that women who were reminded of painful and disappointing experiences with their fathers subsequently perceived greater mating intent among the men. Similar results were not found when women were reminded of disappointing experiences with their mothers.

    Many of the research participants were from intact families and did not actually experience the father’s absence from the home while growing up. However, one study specifically included participants whose parents had separated or divorced during childhood. Women in this study had many real-life experiences with father absence and disengagement on which they could draw.

    Significantly, reminding a woman of a time her father was absent for an event and actually growing up with a disengaged father produced similar results.

    “The experiments test the effect of making salient feelings of pain, loss and disappointment related to the father on a daughter’s sexual perceptions,” DelPriore said, “and using this approach allowed us to capture psychological shifts that could help shape women’s mating behavior. Importantly, we found evidence of similar shifts taking place in response to women’s actual exposures to harsh and deviant fathering while they were growing up.”


  3. Study suggests women who give birth in winter or spring less likely to have postpartum depression

    October 27, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Society of Anesthesiologists press release:

    Women who give birth in winter or spring are less likely than women who deliver in the fall or summer to suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), suggests a study being presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2017 annual meeting.

    The study also found that women who delivered babies at a higher gestational age (further along in their pregnancy) were less likely to develop PPD, and women who did not have anesthesia, such as an epidural, during delivery had an increased risk. The authors said women who did not have anesthesia may have been at an increased risk for PPD because the pain associated with labor may have been traumatizing to the women during delivery, or it’s possible those who declined anesthesia just happened to have intrinsic characteristics that made them more vulnerable to experiencing PPD.

    Caucasian women had a lower risk of PPD compared to women of other races. Additionally, increased body mass index (BMI) was associated with an increased risk of PPD. There was no association found between delivery mode and PPD.

    “We wanted to find out whether there are certain factors influencing the risk of developing postpartum depression that may be avoided to improve women’s health both physically and mentally,” said lead study author Jie Zhou, M.D., of Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.

    At least 10 percent of women suffer from anxiety or depressive disorders following childbirth. Symptoms of PPD include sadness, restlessness and/or agitation and decreased concentration. PPD typically arises from a combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustments to motherhood and fatigue. Left untreated, PPD can interfere with mother-child bonding and cause distress to the mother, baby and the entire family.

    The study included a review of medical records of 20,169 women who delivered babies from June 2015 through August 2017. A total of 817 (4.1 percent) women experienced PPD.

    While the study did not examine why certain factors might influence the development of PPD, Dr. Zhou said the higher the gestational age, or the further along a woman is in her pregnancy, the more mature typically the baby will be at delivery. “It is expected that the mother will do better and be less mentally stressed when delivering a mature, heathy baby,” he noted.

    Additionally, the authors suggest the protective mechanism seen for women delivering in winter and spring may be attributed to the seasonal enjoyment of indoor activities mothers experience with newborns, but say outdoor activities, although not as convenient, with newborns are also good, as this will help to increase sun exposure.

    “The significant difference in the risk of developing PPD between Caucasian and other populations may be due to differences in socioeconomic status among these ethnicities,” he noted. “While women with increased BMI needed more hospital-based maternal outpatient follow-ups and had more pregnancy-related complications, which could affect maternal outlook.”


  4. Study suggests dementia risk is increased in 40-something women with high blood pressure

    October 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Academy of Neurology press release:

    Women who develop high blood pressure in their 40s may be more likely to develop dementia years later, according to a study published in the October 4, 2017, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

    “High blood pressure in midlife is a known risk factor for dementia, but these results may help us better understand when this association starts, how changes in blood pressure affect the risk of dementia and what the differences are between men and women,” said study author Rachel A. Whitmer, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

    The study involved 7,238 people who were part of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health care system. They all had blood pressure checks and other tests from 1964 to 1973 when they were an average age of 33, then again when they were an average age of 44. About 22 percent of the participants had high blood pressure in their 30s (31 percent of men and 14 percent of women). In their 40s, 22 percent overall had high blood pressure, but the makeup was 25 percent of men and 18 percent of women.

    Next the researchers identified the 5,646 participants who were still alive and part of the Kaiser Permanente system in 1996 and followed them for an average of 15 years to see who developed dementia. During that time, 532 people were diagnosed with dementia.

    Having high blood pressure in early adulthood, or in one’s 30s, was not associated with any increased risk of dementia. But having high blood pressure in mid-adulthood, or in one’s 40s, was associated with a 65-percent increased risk of dementia for women. Women who developed high blood pressure in their 40s were 73 percent more likely to develop dementia than women who had stable, normal blood pressure throughout their 30s and 40s.

    The results were the same when researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect risk of dementia, such as smoking, diabetes and body mass index.

    “Even though high blood pressure was more common in men, there was no evidence that having high blood pressure in one’s 30s or 40s increased the risk of dementia for men,” Whitmer said. “More research is needed to identify the possible sex-specific pathways through which the elevated blood pressure accelerates brain aging.”

    For women who made it to age 60 without dementia, the cumulative 25-year risk of dementia was 21 percent for those with high blood pressure in their 30s compared to 18 percent for those who had normal blood pressure in their 30s.

    One limitation of this study is that many developments have been made since the study started in screening for high blood pressure and the use and effectiveness of drugs for it, limiting the ability to generalize the results to today’s population.


  5. Study looks at gender differences in reactions to prosocial behaviour

    October 9, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Zurich press release:

    Behavioral experiments have shown that women share a sum of money more generously than men. To gain a more in-depth understanding of this behavior, neuroscientists from the Department of Economics looked at the areas of the brain that are active when decisions of this kind are made. They are the first to demonstrate that the brains of men and women respond differently to prosocial and selfish behavior.

    Selfish behavior activates reward system more strongly in men

    The striatum, located in the middle of the brain, is responsible for the assessment of reward and is active whenever a decision is made. The findings show: The striatum was more strongly activated in female brains during prosocial decisions than during selfish decisions. By contrast, selfish decisions led to a stronger activation of the reward system in male brains.

    Disrupted reward system leads to more selfish behavior in women

    In the second experiment, the reward system was disrupted by administering medication to the participants. Under these conditions, women behaved more selfishly, while men became more prosocial. The latter result surprised the researchers. As Soutschek explains, “these results demonstrate that the brains of women and men also process generosity differently at the pharmacological level.” The results also have consequences for further brain research, with Soutschek stating that “future studies need to take into account gender differences more seriously.”

    Culturally conditioned behavior patterns are decisive

    Even if these differences are evident at the biological level, Soutschek warns against assuming that they must be innate or of evolutionary origin. “The reward and learning systems in our brains work in close cooperation. Empirical studies show that girls are rewarded with praise for prosocial behavior, implying that their reward systems learn to expect a reward for helping behavior instead of selfish behavior. With this in mind, the gender differences that we observed in our studies could best be attributed to the different cultural expectations placed on men and women.” This learning account is also supported by findings that indicate significant differences in the sensitivity of the reward system to prosocial and selfish behavior across cultures.


  6. Study suggests increased physical activity among breast cancer survivors boosts cognition

    October 1, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of California – San Diego press release:

    It is estimated that up to 75 percent of breast cancer survivors experience problems with cognitive difficulties following treatments, perhaps lasting years. Currently, few science-based options are available to help. In the journal Cancer, University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers report in a pilot study of 87 female breast cancer survivors, an increase in physical activity more than doubled the women’s post-treatment mental processing speed.

    In a 12-week, randomized trial, half the women were enrolled in a physical activity intervention program tailored to each person’s interests and abilities and incorporating wearable activity devices, while the other half were assigned to a control group that received emails addressing women’s health topics, healthy eating, stress reduction and general brain health.

    “Whether or not they receive chemotherapy, many breast cancer survivors experience a decline in brain function that impacts memory, thinking and concentration,” said Sheri Hartman, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and co-director of the diet and physical activity shared resource at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “The women who participated in the physical activity intervention experienced a significant improvement in cognitive processing speed and some improvements in their perceived mental abilities. This study supports the idea that exercise could be a way to help improve cognition among breast cancer survivors.”

    The study tested changes in cognition using both National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox Cognition Domain, a computer-based test of cognitive abilities, and the Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System for self-reporting brain function abilities and problems in all patients at the start and end of the 12-week period. This is the first completed randomized controlled trial using both a test of cognition and a self-reported method to assess the impact of physical activity on cancer survivors.

    In the tests, women in the exercise arm showed more than double the improvements in processing speed, which measures how fast information can be taken in and used, compared to the control group. Looking closer, women in the intervention arm who were two years or less from diagnosis were four times more likely to show improvement in this area.

    “This is a preliminary study, but it appears that intervening closer to diagnosis may be important to having an impact, and this is the population we may need to target,” said Hartman.

    Women in the intervention arm also had three times the improvements in self-report cognition abilities compared to the control group.

    While the tests evaluated several aspects of cognition, only speed processing showed a significant improvement. Researchers recommend larger and longer trials evaluating the necessary duration of exercise and intensity of activities to determine if increased physical activity might impact other aspects of cognition.

    Before the start of the study, all participants wore a research-grade accelerometer on their hips for seven days to measure physical activity at baseline and again for the last seven days of the trial to compare changes in minutes of moderately intense activity.

    During the study period, women in the exercise arm wore a Fitbit One activity tracker. Data collected was sent to researchers to extract activity levels and to provide feedback and encouragement to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, as recommended by the NIH. Researchers provided support through phone calls and emails.

    “Survivors often report that their thinking is slower or feels more foggy. The brain just doesn’t work at the same level as before cancer treatment,” said Hartman. “By providing a program with support, women are more likely to make difficult behavioral changes that lead to an increase in physical activity.”

    The intervention program led to an approximately 100-minute increase in weekly physical activity in the participants in the exercise arm.

    Participants were enrolled in the study between February 2015 and July 2016. To be eligible, women needed to be between 21 and 85 years of age and have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer no more than five years before enrollment in the study. Participants were predominantly well-educated, non-Hispanic white women. Future research in cancer populations with greater diversity is needed, the authors said.


  7. Study suggests coping skills affect women’s anxiety levels

    September 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) press release:

    Research shows that having a strong sense of coherence and good coping skills can help women facing adversity to overcome anxiety. The work found that women encountering difficult circumstances, such as living in a deprived community, who reported good coping skills did not have anxiety. However, women living in deprived communities but without these coping skills were at high risk of suffering from anxiety. This work, presented at the ECNP Conference, is the largest study ever conducted on coping and the anxiety that arises from facing adverse circumstances, such as living in deprivation. This study opens the possibility that teaching women coping strategies may be a way of overcoming the anxiety that stems from facing adverse circumstances, such as living in deprivation.

    Lead researcher, Olivia Remes (University of Cambridge), explained, “Individuals with this sense of coherence, with good coping skills, view life as comprehensible and meaningful. In other words, they feel they can manage their life, and that they are in control of their life, they believe challenges encountered in life are worthy of investment and effort; and they believe that life has meaning and purpose. These are skills which can be taught.”

    The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, surveyed 10,000 women over the age of 40 who were taking part in a major cancer study in Norfolk, UK. They used health and lifestyle questionnaires to record information on living conditions, history of physical health and mental health problems, and linked that to 1991 census data to determine if the women were living in a deprived community. They also checked on each person’s sense of coherence using a questionnaire developed from Aaron Antonovsky’s groundbreaking work on how people find meaning and purpose in life. They found that 261 (2.6%) of the 10,000 women had Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Among women without coping skills, those living in a deprived area were about twice (98%) more likely to have anxiety than those living in more affluent communities. On the other hand, living in a deprived or affluent community made very little difference to the levels of anxiety experienced by women if they had good coping skills.

    Olivia Remes commented, “In general, people with good coping skills tend to have a higher quality of life and lower mortality rates than people without such coping skills. Good coping can be an important life resource for preserving health. For the first time, we show that good coping skills can buffer the negative impact of deprivation on mental health, such as having generalized anxiety disorder. And importantly, these skills, such as feeling like you’re in control of your life and finding purpose in life, can be taught.

    There is a huge number of people living in deprivation, and significant numbers have Generalised Anxiety Disorder. For the first time, we have been able to show that how you cope in life can impact the level of anxiety you are experiencing. Of course, more work needs to be done on this, but this points us in an important direction.

    Many people with anxiety are prescribed medication-and while it is useful in the short-term-it is less effective in the long run, is costly and can come with side effects. Researchers are therefore now turning to coping mechanisms as a way to lower anxiety. This is particularly important for those people who do not experience any improvement in their anxiety symptoms following commonly-prescribed therapies.”

    Commenting, Professor David Nutt (Ex-Chair of the ECNP, Imperial College, London) said, “These data suggest a trial of training in coping skills could be valuable for women lacking in them — such training needs to developed and then a study of its efficacy needs to be carried out.”


  8. So-called ‘bright girl effect’ does not last into adulthood, study finds

    September 7, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Case Western Reserve University press release:

    The notion that young females limit their own progress based on what they believe about their intelligence — called the “bright girl effect” — does not persist into adulthood, according to new research from Case Western Reserve University.

    The study also found almost no relationship between gender and intelligence “mindset,” which refers to a person’s beliefs about his or her own intellectual potential.

    According to mindset theory — developed by Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University — some people have “growth” mindsets while others have “fixed” mindsets.

    A growth mindset, considered a positive trait, is more likely to lead a person to try to overcome challenges, believing intelligence can improve with effort.

    Fixed mindsets, often seen as a negative, are more likely to lead people to avoid difficult tasks and assume failure is due to intelligence levels that cannot be changed.

    Because girls are thought to mature earlier than boys, according to mindset theory, they are often praised for their attributes — how they “are.” More of this type of praise is given to “bright” girls, which leads them to believe their cognitive abilities are more or less set in stone.

    Published in the journal Intelligence, the new research found little indication such a phenomenon exists in adult women.

    “Overall, we saw no reliable evidence for a relationship between women’s intelligence and their mindsets,” said Brooke Macnamara, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve and co-author of the study. “Our results do not support the idea that men and women differ in their beliefs about intelligence.”

    The findings run contrary to some cornerstones of the mindset field: that females, especially smarter females, tend to believe their intelligence levels are static, and that differences in childhood praise given to boys and girls can heavily influence a person’s later beliefs about their own intelligence.

    The study

    In three studies, nearly 400 total participants were given an intelligence test and a measure developed by Dweck that discerns a person’s attitudes toward the plasticity of their own intelligence and talent.

    They were asked, for example, how much they agreed with such statements as, You can always substantially change how intelligent you are, and No matter who you are, you can significantly change your level of intelligence.

    The studies are among the first to investigate three factors among adults: measured intelligence, intelligence mindset, and gender.

    Evidence for the bright girl effect is mostly based on three academic studies conducted with children and adolescents from the 1980’s.

    “These studies help fill in gaps in the mindset research,” said Macnamara. “Some past research has suggested a ‘bright girl effect’ — gender differences among children. However, a ‘bright woman effect’ — gender differences among adults — seemed to be an untested assumption. Across our studies, there were no consistent relationships among intelligence, mindset and gender. Our research did not support the idea of a ‘bright woman effect.'”


  9. Study links duration of estrogen exposure with increased vulnerability to depression

    August 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) press release:

    It’s no secret that the risk of depression increases for women when their hormones are fluctuating. Especially vulnerable times include the menopause transition and onset of postmenopause. There’s also postpartum depression that can erupt shortly after childbirth. But why do some women feel blue while others seem to skate through these transitions? One answer is provided through study results being published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

    The article “Lifelong estradiol exposure and risk of depressive symptoms during the transition to menopause and postmenopause” includes data from a study of more than 1,300 regularly menstruating premenopausal women aged 42 to 52 years at study entry. The primary goal of the study was to understand why some women are more vulnerable to depression, even though all women experience hormone fluctuations.

    Previous studies have suggested a role for reproductive hormones in causing an increased susceptibility to depression. This study focused largely on the effect of estradiol, the predominant estrogen present during the reproductive years. Among other things, estradiol modulates the synthesis, availability, and metabolism of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter in depression. Whereas fluctuations of estradiol during the menopause transition are universal, the duration of exposure to estradiol throughout the adult years varies widely among women.

    A key finding of this study was that longer duration of estrogen exposure from the start of menstruation until the onset of menopause was significantly associated with a reduced risk of depression during the transition to menopause and for up to 10 years postmenopause. Also noteworthy was that longer duration of birth control use was associated with a decreased risk of depression, but the number of pregnancies or incidence of breastfeeding had no association.

    “Women are more vulnerable to depressive symptoms during and after the menopause transition because of fluctuating hormone changes,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of NAMS. “This study additionally found a higher risk for depression in those with earlier menopause, fewer menstrual cycles over lifespan, or more frequent hot flashes. Women and their providers need to recognize symptoms of depression such as mood changes, loss of pleasure, changes in weight or sleep, fatigue, feeling worthless, being unable to make decisions, or feeling persistently sad and take appropriate action.”


  10. Study suggests strong friendships among women in the workplace reduce conflict

    August 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences press release:

    According to a new study in the INFORMS journal Organization Science, when employers foster an office environment that supports positive, social relationships between women coworkers, especially in primarily male dominated organizations, they are less likely to experience conflict among women employees.

    The study, “Gender and Negative Work Ties: Exploring Difficult Work Relationships Within and Across Gender at Two Firms” was conducted by Jenifer Merluzzi of George Washington University.

    Merluzzi surveyed 145 management-level employees regarding workplace dynamics at two large U.S. firms that were primarily male-dominated environments, with women representing less than one-third of the workforce and under 15 percent of the senior management.

    The study author found that, while men and women are equally likely to cite having a difficult co-worker, compared to men, women are more likely to cite another woman as a difficult coworker than they are to cite a man, or not cite anyone. However, this tendency is reduced among women who cite having more women coworkers for social support and friendship at work. Knowing that unique gendered network characteristics such as the gender compositions of an employee’s social support at work were associated with negative ties can help organizational leaders anticipate potential trouble spots within their firms where gendered conflict may erupt.

    “While gender diversity and inequality are well document topics in management, sociology and labor economics, few have looked closely at the gendered negative relationships within the workplace from a social relationship perspective,” said Merluzzi. “Understanding the relational side of conflict also bears practical importance as companies increasingly organize using diverse teams, heightening the reliance on informal ties between and within gender to get work accomplished.”