Personality Differences by Gender

Traditionally, dignity and respect are qualities expected and admired by both male and female Puerto Ricans. However, there is a greater expectation of Puerto Rican men to have some sense of personal dignity (dignidad) and make sure that proper respect (respecto) is shown to them. Therefore, a man is called to protect his personal honor as well as the honor of all other members of his family. The behavior of family members also reflects on the honor of the man, in particular the chastity and fidelity of his daughters and wife. According to some scholars, Puerto Rican personality constellations are framed by machismo and marianismo. As noted previously, machismo and marianismo are concepts that are poorly defined and not sufficiently empirically tested.

Machismo is described as involving personal bearing by which one faces challenge, danger, and threat with calmness and self-possession. It is also a quality of personal magnetism that impresses and prompts others to follow one as a leader. Aggressiveness, violence, and assertiveness are also associated with machismo. Marianismo is described as involving self-sacrifice, nurturance, passivity, and modesty. Within this framework, femininity is strongly bound to the ideology of sacrifice. A good woman is defined by her self-abnegation and by placing family and community needs before her own. A good woman is one who is selfless and willing to sacrifice in order to ensure the well-being of her family, including the well-being of her parents as they age. Puerto Rican women are expected to accept misfortune with stoicism and silence. The oppressive nature of the limited gender role, which does not allow women to demonstrate aggressiveness, has been thought by some scholars to cause mal de nervios or ataques de nervios (bad nerves or attacks of nerves) (Cuadrado & Lieberman, 2002). Researchers have also attributed nervios as a response to acute stress. The Puerto Rican culture is said to allow for psychosomatic displays as self-mediating stress relievers. These attacks are a culturally acceptable way of expressing uncontrollable emotions. While these attacks do occur in both genders, they have been found to be more common among Puerto Rican women, as has depression. Alcohol use, which is allowed for male stress reduction as well as celebration, is usually discouraged in women.

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