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Learning Anger

December 10, 1987

According to "Learning Anger at Mother's Knee" (UPI, Dec. 2), men and women respond to anger in different ways. Specifically: "Men tend to blame others when they get angry, while women blame themselves and feel guilty about their anger."

And why the difference? According to the story's headline and lead paragraphs, mothers cause the difference by encouraging little boys to take action when angry while advising little girls to ignore and forget their feelings.

Now, I recall being told by my mother and my father to ignore irritating behavior rather than encourage it with an angry reply; they told the same thing to my brother. I doubt that my family is the only exception to the story's assertion that only little girls are told to stifle their anger. So why does the story specifically blame only mothers for women's tendency to internalize anger?

Well, here's my effort at breaking out of the passive, female mode of reaction. I'm angry and I know exactly who to blame: First, there's the writer, who seems to think it takes a man and a woman to conceive a child but only mom is responsible for bringing up baby. Then there's the copy editor, who felt it necessary to put mother in the headline even though not one researcher quoted mentions the sex of the parent responsible for reinforcing these differences between boys and girls. And finally, there are the editors who let both the story and the headline stand.

Somehow I think the fact that society still endorses such attempts to indict women for every last problem experienced by their children speaks more directly to why women turn anger into guilt and self-blame: They learned it at society's knee.

KATHY HINSON BREED

Claremont

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