Grumpy old women shatter the myth of Victor Meldrew

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The social stereotype of "Grumpy Old Men" is a myth, with women more prone to explosions of Victor Meldrew-style rage in later life, researchers have found.

The social stereotype of "Grumpy Old Men" is a myth, with women more prone to explosions of Victor Meldrew-style rage in later life, researchers have found.

While men mellow as they get older, women stay as angry as ever, falling out with their friends, getting irritated by strangers in the street and left frustrated by the vagaries of modern technology.

The findings were presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Manchester yesterday. Researchers from Middlesex University questioned 101 women and 52 men aged between 18 and 60 about their responses and feelings of anger in three hypothetical situations.

The first, "interpersonal" scenario asked both groups to imagine that their best friend was refusing to listen to them when they urgently needed to talk. The second "environmental" scenario involved a stranger being rude to them in the street, while the third "unattainable goal" incident involved buying a video player to watch a favourite film and on getting home finding that it did not work.

The men and women were then split into three age groups: 18 to 25-year-olds; 26 to 40-year-olds; and 41 to 60-year-olds.

In the youngest age groups, average anger levels were the same, with men more likely to be irritated by the environmental situation and women by the interpersonal scenario. But, by the second age group, angry responses among the men had rapidly declined, while the women's remained the same. Among the 41 to 60-year-olds, men's anger had fallen and then levelled off, while women's remained the same at retirement as it had when they were 18.

Jane Barnett, the project's lead researcher, said: "The traditional belief has been that men feel more comfortable about expressing their anger while women suppress it because they have been taught that it is not feminine or ladylike and they should not be showing that kind of emotion.

"But this research shows that women do seem to feel comfortable about expressing anger, perhaps because even as they get older they see it as being assertive and as a positive rather than negative emotion.

"Men on the other hand may feel that as they get older they do not need to live up to masculine stereotypes and may just think 'oh sod it'."

The success of the BBC television series Grumpy Old Men was followed by Grumpy Old Women featuring, among others, Germaine Greer and Janet Street-Porter.

Miss Barnett now plans to design an anger-management course that takes into account the differences between men and women. She said: "Women may feel anger in the same way as men but they tend to express it in different ways."

Miss Barnett said that after generations of being told to control their anger, women may be finally getting their own back on Grumpy Old Men.

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