Friday, July 06, 2007

Are Men as Talkative as Women?

Yes, according to a USA Today article on a study that says that both sexes speak about 16,000 words a day:

Popular wisdom would have it that women talk more than men-- 20,000 words a day, while men average just 7,000.

Research out today contradicts that stereotype. Both sexes say about 16,000 words a day, a study in Science magazine says.

"It's been a common belief, but it just didn't fit," says co-author James Pennebaker, psychology department chairman at the University of Texas-Austin.

He and colleagues analyzed conversations recorded from 1998 to 2004 of 396 students in the USA and Mexico, 210 women and 186 men, ages 18-29. The study examined word count, not vocabulary or word use. Pennebaker says two-thirds of participants spoke 11,000 to 25,000 words a day; the average for both sexes was about 16,000.

The finding may seem surprising in a culture in which women are often stereotyped as talkative and men as uncommunicative.

Neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine cited the 20,000-vs.-7,000 comparison in her 2006 book The Female Brain as evidence for gender brain differences. After the book came out in August, the statistic was widely quoted.

A linguistics professor says that previous studies have focused on phone conversations and interview transcripts, rather than daily life. If you just look around at the sheer number of women on cell phones chatting with friends, it is no wonder it seems women are the chattier sex. And interviewing some guys is like pulling teeth to get them talking. Phones and interviews may not be a good fit to get men talking. It's like saying that women don't talk as much at sports events and beer drinking contests. So next time you think that men don't communicate and thrive on being the strong silent type, just remember that perhaps the context is the problem, not the fact that they are uncommunicative.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ask Dr. Helen

My second column is up at Pajama's Media:

Coping with therapists who are unsympathetic to men, and creating intimacy in ways other than sex are among the issues on the minds of those who wrote in to Dr. Helen following her debut column.

You can go there to comment, comment here, or email me at askdrhelen at


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Helpline for Abused Men

In response to my post on domestic violence, Jan Brown, the founder and director of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women writes in:

Dear Helen,

Thanks for starting a dialouge about this topic. I started researching domestic violence back in 1996 after a male family member reached out to me and told me of his wife's verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of him throughout their 13 year marriage. I found out that his options were severely limited by society's understanding of domestic violence. Male victims are rarely welcomed at the over 2000 battered women's programs throughout the US and most times they are treated as abusers when they call looking for assistance. In October of 2000 I started a non profit agency. We run the only nationally available toll free crisis line that specializes in offering support and services to male victims of female domestic violence. For the last six plus years over 16,000 people have called our toll free helpline seeking information, support, referrals, and services. Please let male victims know that we are here and we care.

Our toll free line is 888-7HELPLINE (888-743-5754) and our website is

PS We receive no federal or state funding, our contributions come from private donations so some of our services are limited, but we do what we can to assist all victims who call our crisis line.
Jan Brown, Founder and Director
Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women

It is good to know that there are services out there that treat men as fairly as women are treated in the arena of domestic violence. If you would like to learn more about the characteristics of men who are abused and the women who abuse them--take a look at Ms. Brown's article here. Not surprisingly, many of the abused men are in their early forties with children who are being used as "hostages" for keeping the men in their situation.

Women, just like men, need to learn to keep their emotions in check before they become angry enough to abuse those they live with and risk harming their families and those they should care about. The site I mentioned above has a workbook by a forensic psychologist for women entitled The Anger Workbook for Women: How to Keep Your Anger from Undermining Your Self-Esteem, Your Emotional Balance, and Your Relationships that may be a helpful resource. I noticed that the forward was by Sandra Thomas, an expert in anger and one of my current co-authors on a violence article that should be forthcoming. Apparently, the workbook can be used by women or professionals to help reduce feelings of anger and violence.
Happy Fourth of July!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Troubled Homes are Still Better than Foster Care

I was reading an article in USA Today while on my beach vacation in Florida (possibly pictures to come later). Anyway, the gist of the article is that children who stay in troubled families fare better than those put into foster care:

Children whose families are investigated for abuse or neglect are likely to do better in life if they stay with their families than if they go into foster care, according to a pioneering study.

The findings intensify a vigorous debate in child welfare: whether children are better served with their families or away from them.

Some statistics provided by the study were 14% of those who stayed with their troubled family were arrested at least once vs. 44% who were arrested if they were placed in foster care; 33% of those who stayed with their troubled family became teen mothers vs. 56% of those who went into foster care and finally, 33% from troubled families were able to hold a job for three months vs. only 20% for those in foster care.

I agree with a professor in the article that says more research is needed to determine whether or not kids do better in foster care; however, if state intervention is found to lead to more problems for kids, perhaps figuring out how to keep children in their homes is a better solution.

Comments on Domestic Violence

Digg linked to my post on women being twice as likely to hit as men. There are some interesting comments from many of the readers over there, some sad, some puzzled and some sexist. The truth is, many men are hit by their significant others, and no one wants to talk about it. Women often expect men to have total restraint and take the blows and abuse without a whimper. This is a form of psychological abuse, but somehow it is only seen that way if it is committed against a woman. Men actually have feelings too, believe it or not -- and punching, hitting and kicking is a poor way to communicate with them.

I am glad people are talking about it, but talk is cheap, and action is better. Perhaps it is time to start realizing that women can also display acts of aggression that are psychologically damaging to men in ways that are deeply wounding. Women should be taught the boundaries of aggression in their interactions with men and realize that a punch thrown or a knife tossed is not funny or cute, even though it's often portrayed that way in the movies.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Podcast with Musician Hector Qirko

Hector Qirko is a musician of an extraordinary sort; he is a guitar legend in Knoxville who has played with everyone from Chicago blues star Lonnie Brooks to seminal punk band Balboa. He is currently remastering some of Balboa frontman Terry Hill's lost tapes, and has also just put out a new album of his own that includes acoustic tunes with a mountain flavor. We talk to him in our studio about his music, his 21 years in the music business and how the industry has changed. Plus, there is some really good music. You can visit Hector's website at
Links mentioned in the show include Hector's own site, the site of R.B. Morris, and the Terry Hill memorial page. Plus, the Lonesome Coyotes.

You can listen to the show directly -- no downloads needed -- by going here and clicking on the gray Flash player. Or you can download the entire file and listen at your leisure by clicking right here. You can get a lo-fi version for dialup by going here and selecting "lo fi" and -- of course -- you can subscribe via iTunes by clicking right here. Visit our show archives for new and old episodes at

This podcast is sponsored by Volvo at