Gender differences in stress and coping styles (2023)


Studies consistently find gender differences in certain measures of health, such as anxiety, depression, and some physical illnesses (eg, Barnett, Biener, and Baruch, 1987; Mirowsky and Ross, 1995; Cleary, 1987; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987; Weissman and Klermann, 1977). Although the reason for this discrepancy is unclear, one of the contributing factors may be stress differences (Aneshensel & Pearlin, 1987; Barnett et al., 1987; Baum & Grunberg, 1991; Billings & Moos, 1984; McDonough & Walters, 2001 ). ; Mirowsky and Ross, 1995; Turner, Wheaton and Lloyd, 1995; Wethingington, McLeod and Kessler, 1987).

Despite the numerous studies carried out on the relationship between stress and health, the nature of this relationship has not yet been clearly established. Correlations between life stress and illness have been very modest, typically below 0.30 (Rabkin & Struening, 1976) and there is little agreement on the definition and measurement of these constructs. Some authors (i.e., Billings & Moos, 1984; Pearlin, 1989; Pearlin & Schooler, 1978; Turner et al., 1995) claim that stressful experiences are not limited to stressful life events, but also include difficult and ongoing conditions . of daily life, which some authors call chronic stressors, or stressors that tend to persist for long periods of time (Wheaton, 1983). It has also been found that there are large individual differences in cognitive and physiological responses to stress, and the relationship between stress and health is influenced by a variety of moderating variables, including personality; however, the findings were not conclusive (Steptoe, 1983). Furthermore, as Baruch, Biener, and Barnett (1987) argue, progress in this area has been limited by focusing more on men and neglecting gender as a variable.

Gender affects every element in the stress process both on entry, determining whether a situation will be perceived as stressful, and on exit, influencing coping responses and the health implications of stress reactions (Barnett et al., 1987). Although the literature examining the relationship between gender and stress reveals several conflicting results, many authors have found that women find themselves in stressful circumstances more often than men (e.g., Almeida & Kessler, 1998; McDonough & Walters, 2001). . Other authors have suggested that women may rate threatening events as more stressful than men (Miller & Kirsch, 1987; Ptacek, Smith, & Zanas, 1992). Additionally, women have been found to experience more chronic stress than men (McDonough & Walters, 2001; Turner et al., 1995; Nolen-Hoeksema, Larson & Grayson, 1999) and are exposed to more daily stress associated with your role. routine. functioning (Kessler & McLeod, 1984). Women are also more likely to report stressful family and home life events (Oman & King, 2000) and stress related to gendered caregiver roles (Lee, 1999, Lee, 2001; Walters, 1993). Additionally, women experience gender-specific stressors, such as gender-based violence and gender discrimination, which are associated with women's physical and psychiatric events (Heim et al., 2000; Klonoff, Landrine, & Campbell, 2000; Koss, Koss, and Woodruff, 1991; Landrine, Klonoff, Gibbs, Manning, and Lund, 1995). Women were also more affected by stress from those around them, as they tended to be more emotionally involved than men in social and family networks (Kessler & McLeod, 1984; Turner et al., 1995).

Social roles also seem relevant in stressful life experiences for both women and men (Aneshensel, Frerichs, & Clark, 1981; Aneshensel & Pearlin, 1987; Cleary & Mechanic, 1983). Role occupation determines the range of potentially stressful experiences, increases the possibility of exposure to some stressors and excludes the presence of others. But, as Aneshensel and Pearlin (1987) suggest, the conditions people face when taking on a role are a source of differential stress, since people can have very different experiences within the same role. Women and men differ in the frequency with which they occupy social roles and in their experiences in similar social roles. The position of women at work and in the family is less favorable, since they carry with them a greater load of demands and limitations (Matthews, Hertzman, Ostry, & Power, 1998; Mirowsky & Ross, 1995).

Coping has been defined as constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that have been assessed as consuming or exceeding the person's resources (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Research recognizes two main functions of coping: regulating stressful emotions and altering the person-environment relationship that causes distress (Folkman, Lazarus, Dunkel-Schetter, Delongis, & Gruen, 1986). Problem-focused coping includes cognitive and behavioral attempts to modify or eliminate the stressful situation. In contrast, emotion-focused coping involves attempts to regulate emotional responses elicited by the situation (Folkman & Lazarus, 1980). Researchers have suggested that emotion-focused coping is less effective and more likely to be associated with psychological distress than problem-focused coping (Billings & Moos, 1981; Billings & Moos, 1984; Pearlin & Schooler, 1978). ; Sigmon, Stanton, & Snyder, 1995).

The results of studies on gender differences in coping behavior are not definitive. Although Miller and Kirsch (1987) acknowledge their methodological limitations and the fact that more research is needed, they found that many studies report differences in how women and men cope with stress, with men tending to cope with stress by focusing on in the problem, whereas women tend to use strategies that modify their emotional response, although these trends may change under certain circumstances. For example, Ben-Zur and Zeidner (1996) found that women tended to be more active and problem-focused than men during the Gulf War crisis, while men, compared to women, reported coping more focused on emotions. And this pattern of gender differences reversed when dealing with everyday stressors after the war.

Two main hypotheses have been proposed to explain gender differences in the way individuals deal with stressful events: the socialization hypothesis and the role restriction hypothesis (Ptacek et al., 1992; Rosario, Shinn, Morch, & Huckabee, 1988) . Several authors (ie Almeida & Kessler, 1998; Barnett et al., 1987) have suggested that the impact of gender on the stress process may be conditioned by traditional patterns of socialization. The traditional female gender role prescribes dependency, affiliation, emotional expressiveness, lack of assertiveness, and the subordination of one's own needs to those of others. On the other hand, the traditional male role prescribes attributes such as autonomy, self-confidence, assertiveness, instrumentality and goal orientation. These types of attributes would make it more difficult for men to accept and express feelings of weakness, incompetence, and fear, while it would be more difficult for women to take a proactive problem-solving stance. The stress associated with gender role identification is different for each sex because women are more likely to identify with the female gender role and men are more likely to identify with the male gender role. In contrast, the role constraint hypothesis argues that gender differences in coping can be explained by differences between men and women in the likelihood of occupying certain social roles and role-related resources and opportunities (Rosario et al., 1988).

Recently, some authors have criticized psychological theories of coping with stress and recognized differences in psychological development between men and women. In addition, there is a growing interest in studying women's lives and the unique circumstances they face (Banyard & Graham-Bermann, 1993; Kayser & Sormanti, 2002; Kayser, Sormanti & Strainchamps, 1999). Other critics feel that there is not enough emphasis on the issue of power and how it can mediate gender stress and coping. These critics recognize the influence of social forces such as sexism and access to power as variables in the coping process, rather than focusing solely on the individual (Banyard & Graham-Bermann, 1993). Given these socialization patterns and the relatively low status of women in most occupational situations, it is not surprising that women, more often than men, perceive that they have inadequate resources to deal with a threatening situation and also see a stressful situation as as immutable. and tend to look to others for support.

This study was designed to explore gender differences in some stress process variables in a large sample of the general population. The questions we seek to address are:firstWhat are the stress differences between men and women andsecondwhat are the differences in coping styles and emotional control between men and women.

section excerpts


This study analyzes the responses of a convenience sample of 2,816 people (1,566 women and 1,250 men) between 18 and 65 years old. The mean age of women was 34.3 (SD=11.8) and of men 31.88 (SD=11.5). All participants were residents of the Canary Islands, Spain, a homogeneous population of European ethnicity. In Table 1 we present the main sociodemographic characteristics of both groups. As can be seen, there are representatives of all sociodemographic groups and, although

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Multivariate and univariate analyzes of covariance (MANCOVA) were performed to assess gender differences in stress, health, and coping variables. It was adjusted for sociodemographic variables that were different for the two groups: age, number of children, education and occupation. Marital status was not included because it is highly associated with the number of children. It was found that 98.1% of single men and 95.5% of single women did not have children.

The results of


Although the magnitude of differences between women and men is small and the percentage of explained variance is low, we found significant differences in several stress-related variables. Women have more daily stress, with more chronic problems and conflicts and daily demands and frustrations. Although women and men do not have differences in the number of life events and changes experienced in the last two years, these events seem to affect women more, as they evaluate them less


This research was supported by grants from the Instituto de la Mujer and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of the Canary Islands. The author would also like to thank the reviewers for their helpful comments.

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