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Gender roles escalating for women on Valentine's Day: Women buy gifts for several people, pets, self

UT Assistant Professor of advertising Angeline Close outlines motivations behind women's gift-giving rituals

AUSTIN, Texas – Feb. 4, 2013 – Although Valentine's Day traditionally has been a woman's day to be courted, research by Angeline Close – an assistant professor of advertising in The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication – finds that women typically feel more compelled than men to purchase gifts for several people.

Multi-year analyses were based on 149 men and women (ages 18 to 47) who wrote diary entries near Valentine's Day; 47 online postings collected near Valentine's Day; and a focus group of six women (ages 18 to 22). Findings are supported by a Jan. 31 National Retail Federation report, which shows that more women than men plan to purchase Valentine's Day gifts for children, parents, friends, children's classmates, teachers and pets. Thus, women do more than receive for this event.

"Women often feel that they aren't doing enough, even though Valentine's Day is traditionally viewed a woman's holiday," Close said.

Women typically establish these behaviors during childhood, when traditions of card, candy and exchange of affection are often gender-neutral and egalitarian, Close said. Boys and girls both celebrate the holiday and expect to receive recognition from their peers. Perceived roles from the boyhood egalitarian Valentine exchange typically change for men, while they usually remain for women.

While women purchase for more people and pets, Close – as well as the Jan. 31 National Retail Federation report – found that men spend more than women. Close also found that some women in long-term dating relationships expect the lavishness of the gifts they receive to increase each year.

Respondents who resisted some aspects of Valentine's Day reported feeling excluded, resisting the commercialization of romance, not wanting gifts to overshadow the holiday's meaning and feeling obligated to celebrate.

Women who did not celebrate were usually overt about their decisions, sharing resistance attitudes and hosting anti-Valentine's Day events. In addition, their primary motivations for resisting Valentine's Day were not financial.

Close's research appears in a book titled "Gender, Culture and Consumer Behavior," edited by Cele C. Otnes and Linda Tuncay Zayer, published in March of 2012 by Routledge Academic. Her Valentine's Day event resistance research is also published in the Journal of Business Research and Advances in Consumer Research.

About The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication

One of the nation's foremost institutions for the study of advertising and public relations, communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, journalism and radio-TV-film, The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication is preparing students to thrive in an era of media convergence. Serving more than 4,600 undergraduate and graduate students, the College is nationally recognized for its faculty members, research and student media. For more information about the College of Communication, visit


Contacts: Laura Byerley, (512) 471-2182; Angeline Close, (512) 471-8902.

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