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Gender Issues in Psychology

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Gender Issues In Psychology (PSY - 512)
Lesson 41
Gender and Psychopathology
Psychopathology refers to mental disorders, or mental illness.
Stereotypically speaking there are marked gender differences in psychopathology.
However empirical research does not support this view.
Men and women, both have an equal risk of developing any mental disorder.
Many mental health professional and researchers are of the view that it is the diagnostic criteria that are
designed in such a manner that women are more likely to be diagnosed with certain mental health problems
than men.
In our discussion this topic we will primarily focus on three things:
a) Gender, Stress and Coping
b) Gender bias in diagnostic criteria, and
c) Gender differences in mental disorders
In the section on gender and psychopathology, stress and mental disorders will be discussed.
The issue of gender and psychotherapy, and feminist psychotherapy will be tackled in the following lectures.
Gender, Stress and Coping
Stress refers to, "a state of challenge or threat that disrupts the normal rhythm and balance of a person's life"
(Sanderson, 2004).
People feel stress when they are placed, by circumstances, in situations that tax or exceed their resources and
endanger their well-being (Lazarus, and Folkman, 1984).
Therefore if one is caught in a problem situation and one feels out of resources and without skills for handling
the situation, one feels trapped and threatened, hence stress.
On the other hand if another person is caught in the same situation but feels fully equipped with skills and
resources for handling the situation, no stress may be experienced.
So one can understand that losing a job may be stressful for someone who has no savings and who is not
hopeful of finding a new job.
Being out of job will not be much problematic for a person who is financially stable and has the qualification
for another job.
Stress is accompanied by the physical component.
Stress is experienced in a fight or fight situation.
Stress is marked by an activated Sympathetic Nervous System.
As a result a person under stress may experience increased heart rate, hyperventilation, sweating, cold sweats
dry mouth, shaky legs etc.
How stress will take its toll will depend upon how much does it prolong.
Different psychologists have explained the psychological and physical components of stress, but we will not go
into the details of that since you must have acquired that knowledge in abnormal psychology or health
However we must keep it in mind that prolonged stress may have a serious effect on ones physical as well as
psychological well-being.
Gender Differences in Reactions to Stress
For many years psychologists relied upon the findings of Walter Cannon that people respond to stress with
heightened arousal i.e., the fight or flight response.
But recent research has proposed a divergent viewpoint.
This research suggests that the reaction proposed by Cannon may not apply to every one (Taylor et al., 2000).
Most of the previous research on stress has relied upon male samples.
Even when animals were used, they were mostly males, male rats mostly.
Therefore there has been no clear cut evidence available on as to how females react to stress.
Recent research suggests that female's reactions to stress may be different from those of males.
Gender Issues In Psychology (PSY - 512)
It has been observed that men exhibit the traditional fight or flight response, whereas women may demonstrate
the "tend-and-befriend response" (Taylor et al., 2000).
This research shows that in periods of stress, women prefer to affiliate with others, while men prefer less social
Experiments have shown that women refer to wait with other women when they expect that they will be given
painful electric shocks.
Men in such situations prefer waiting alone.
The same scenario can be observed when men and women are waiting for their turn for a medical procedure in
a hospital or dental surgery.
Gender Differences in Physiological Reactivity to Stress
Men and women may experience different types and levels, of physiological strain from stressors.
Men have been found to show more reactivity as compared to women when psychologically stressed (Collins
and Frankenhaeuser, 1978; Kudielka et al., 1998; Ratliff-Crain, and Baum, 1990).
Gender differences have been reported in how people respond to stress and influence of stress on illness
(Stoney, Davis and Mathews, 1987; Stoney, Mathews, Mc Donald, and Johnson, 1988).
Men in general have higher blood pressure than women and show greater B.P variations in stressful situations.
The higher physiological responsiveness of men under stress may be a contributory factor in the higher risk of
CHD for men.
Religiosity: Does prayer help in Coping with stress?
Some researchers have tried to study a unique phenomenon, i.e., the effect of prayers on stress.
A study was conducted to investigate the impact of praying on physical health.
A group of 199 women was chosen in Korea and randomly assigned to two groups, prayer group and non-
prayer group (Kwaug Cha et al., 2001).
These women were seeking treatment for becoming pregnant.
The photographs of the women in the prayer group were sent to church goes in the U.S, Australia, and Canada
and they were requested to pray for the pregnancy of these women.
The study yielded amazing results.
50% of the prayers group females become pregnant, while only 26% of the non-prayer group became pregnant.
What was more striking was that the pregnancy rate at the clinic from where these women were chosen was
33% otherwise.
The prayer was found effective in case of women 30 years or above in age and not for these below 30.
Most importantly neither the women in prayer group, not their medical staff was aware of the fact that they
were being prayed for.
Who feels how much stress and why??
As compared to men, women report greater number of stressors.
These stressors include major as well as minor stressors (Davis, Malthews, and Twamley, 1999).
There may be a number of reasons for this, including the self disclosure style of women.
Different events seem to cause stress to men and women.
When the strength of reactivity is compared with that of the opposite sex, it may be greater when the stressor is
relevant to the persons' gender (Weidner, and Messina, 1998).
Greater reactivity is shown by men, in comparison to women, when their competence is challenged;
In case of women, they show greater reactivity, as compared to men when their friendship or love is challenged
(Smith et al., 1998).
Men have been found to show greater reactivity, than women, when they are stressed psychologically (Collins,
and Frankenhaeuser, 1978; Kudielka et al., 1998; Ratliff-Crain and Baum, 1990).
The sources of Stress:
Research shows that there are no gender differences in the biological/physiological reaction to stress (Taylor et
al., 2000).
Gender Issues In Psychology (PSY - 512)
Stress triggers the same sympathetic nervous system activation in both men and women. However the sources
of stress may vary.
The modern lifestyle and Stress
In the modern world, many women perform dual roles and responsibilities: working at home and at the
The additional burden may add to a hassled routine.
However being employed outside home has been found to have a positive effect on women's well-being.
Working women tend to exhibit less distress then the housewives; however they show more distress than
employed men (Glass, and Fujimoto, 1994; Mirowrky, and Ross, 1989).
Both men and women, if employed generally have fewer health problems; but it seems that in case of working
married women, they are under greater strain than their husbands (Nathanson, 1980; Northcott, 1980;
Verbrugge, 1983).
In case of married women, especially these belonging to low-income families, psychological distress are
increased by the strain of working and doing the majority of work associated with raising children (Cleary, and
Mechanic, 1983; Gore, and Mangione, 1983; Lai, 1995; Simon, 1992, 1995).
In general employment has been found to have a positive impact upon women's well-being.
Employment outside home enhances the overall psychological well-being of women (Glass, and Funjimoto,
1994; Kessler, and Mc Rae, 1981; Rosenfield, 1992).
This positive effect is seen especially when women are able to exercise some control over what they do on their
job (Lennon, 1994; Lennon, and Rosenfield, 1992; Roxburgh, 1996).
Among working women, the most positive levels of mental health are seen in women who like to combine a
job with that of homemaker (Kessler, and Mc Rae, 1981).
Marriage of Experience of Stress
Marriage seems to have a positive effect; married people experiencing less stress as compared to the lonely
unmarried people.
But some stressors are prevalent more in case of married people.
Women whether married or unmarried, show more psychological distress than men.
However, in case of married women the quality of relationship with the husband is an important variable in
maintaining positive levels of mental health (Gove, Hughes, and Style, 1983; Vanfossen, 1981).
In some cases woman's employment may have a negative impact upon the husband's mental health if they are
earning less than the wife, or if they have to do more housework due to it (Rosenfield, 1992).
But research also shows that both the husband and wife are less depressed when the women's employment
outside the home is consistent with their preference.
If the husband helps with the housework, wives are less depressed; and helping the wife does not increase
depression for the husband either (Ross, Mirowsky, and Huber, 1983).
Research done in the US and Australia has shown that in both countries, being married was a mental health
advantage for both spouses.
When married and unmarried people were compared, lower levels of mental disorders were seen in married
Unmarried were at a higher risk for mental health problems than unmarried women in the US (Hetherington,
and Kelly, 2002; Sachs-Ericsson, and Ciarlo, 2000).
In Australia similar rates of disorders were found in both groups (de Vaus, 2002).
In the US fewer mental health problems were experienced by husbands, whereas in Australia, the benefits of
marriage were equal for both spouses (Sachs-Ericsson, and Ciarlo, 2000).
Going through all these research findings, one can see that gender differences found in the experience of stress
are related to the lifestyles of people.
Most of the findings mentioned her pertain to work, and marriage.
There is no dearth of empirical evidence about the nature of stressors and peoples' reaction to these.
However these research findings apply to both men and women.
In the older times, men were thought to be more under stress, as they used to be the role bread winners.
Today the trend changed and more and more women are working out side home.
Gender Issues In Psychology (PSY - 512)
However in a still changing society like ours, men are still under more pressure and exposed t wider variety of
stressors than women.
Table of Contents:
  1. INTRODUCTION:Common misconception, Some questions to ponder
  2. FEMINIST MOVEMENT:Forms or Varieties of Feminism, First wave feminists
  3. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:Functionalism, Psychoanalytic Psychology:
  4. Gender- related Research:Andocentricity, Overgeneralizing, Gender Blindness
  5. RESEARCH METHODS FOR GENDER ISSUES:The Procedure of Content Analysis
  6. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH:Limitations Of Quantitative Research
  9. THEORIES OF GENDER DEVELOPMENT:The Biological Approach,
  10. THEORIES OF GENDER DEVELOPMENT (2):The Behavioral Approach
  11. THEORIES OF GENDER DEVELOPMENT (3):The Cognitive Approach
  12. THEORIES OF GENDER DEVELOPMENT (3):Psychoanalytic Feminism
  13. OTHER APPROACHES:The Humanistic Approach, Cultural Influences
  14. GENDER TYPING AND STEREOTYPING:Development of sex-typing
  15. GENDER STEREOTYPES:Some commonly held Gender Stereotypes
  16. Developmental Stages of Gender Stereotypes:Psychoanalytic Approach, Hostile sexism
  21. COGNITIVE DIFFERENCES:Gender Differences in I.Q, Gender and Verbal Ability
  22. GENDER AND MEDIA:Print Media and Portrayal of Genders
  23. GENDER AND EMOTION:The components of Emotions
  24. GENDER, EMOTION, & MOTIVATION:Affiliation, Love, Jealousy
  25. GENDER AND EDUCATION:Impact of Educational Deprivation
  27. GENDER, WORK AND WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT (2):Glass-Ceiling Effect
  28. GENDER, WORK & RELATED ISSUES:Sexual Harassment at Workplace
  29. GENDER AND VIOLENCE:Domestic Violence, Patriarchal terrorism
  30. GENDER AND HEALTH:The Significance of Women’s Health
  31. GENDER, HEALTH, AND AGING:Genetic Protection, Behavioral Factors
  32. GENDER, HEALTH, AND AGING:Physiological /Biological Effects, Changes in Appearance
  33. GENDER DIFFERENCES IN AGING:Marriage and Loneliness, Empty Nest Syndrome
  35. GENDER AND HEALTH PROMOTING BEHAVIOR:The Classic Alameda County Study
  36. GENDER AND HEART DISEASE:Angina Pectoris, The Risk factors in CHD
  37. GENDER AND CANCER:The Trend of Mortality Rates from Cancer
  38. GENDER AND HIV/AIDS:Symptoms of AIDS, Mode of Transmission
  40. OBESITY AND WEIGHT CONTROL:Consequences of Obesity, Eating Disorders
  41. GENDER AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY:Gender, Stress and Coping
  42. GENDER AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY:The Diagnostic Criteria
  43. GENDER AND PSYCHOTHERAPY:Traditional Versus Feminist Theory
  44. FEMINIST THERAPY:Changes targeted at societal level