Social Structure and Anger: Social Psychological Mediators


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Virginia Tech


This study uses 1996 General Social Survey data to examine potential social psychological mediators, suggested by equity theory and research on distress, of the relationship between social structure and anger. A broader social structure and personality approach to anger is compared with the equity and stress models proposed.

Among social structural locations, anger varies only by age when other social characteristics are controlled in OLS regressions. Frequency of anger declines with age. No direct relationship between anger and gender, ethnicity, education, income, or marital or parental statuses is evident. However, the tendency to express anger is associated with more frequent anger.

Equity beliefs about gender and individualism do not significantly affect anger. However, the belief that others cannot be trusted is positively related to anger and mediates the relationship between age and anger. Similar to findings related to distress, both self-efficacy and social integration suppress anger.

As suggested by the social structure and personality approach, combining cultural factors, such as beliefs, and proximal influences, such as social and personal resources, explains more of the relationship between social structure and anger than either an equity or stress model alone. Mistrust and self-efficacy together explain more variation in the frequency of anger than either alone.

In this study, social disadvantage does not directly predict anger. Because anger is prevalent in work and family relationships, the relationship between age and anger may be explained by age-graded changes in work and family roles (Schieman 1999). However, this would not explain the lack of variation in anger by other structural locations in which social disadvantage likely affects work and family relationships.

The social psychological factors that have the most significant effect anger in this study (mistrust and self-efficacy) vary by ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Were it not for greater mistrust and lower self-efficacy, blacks and the socioeconomically disadvantaged would be angry significantly less often than whites and those of higher socioeconomic status. These findings suggest that expectations and perceptions of control, shaped by in-group comparisons and experience and which vary by social structural location, may affect anger.



Self-efficacy, emotions, stress, mistrust, social inequality, beliefs, equity, anger, social psychology