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Gender Differences, Marriage, and Mental Health
AuthorMauldin, Katherine L.
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Women consistently exhibit more psychological distress than men. This study addresses the gender gap in psychological distress by using a stress process approach to examine the effects of stressors and resources within the marital or cohabiting relationship on mental health. Data from 2,869 married and cohabiting respondents aged 18-54 from the 1990-91 National Co-Morbidity Survey was analyzed in order to explain a portion of the gender gap in distress. Results showed that men reported experiencing more work stress, having higher levels of self-esteem, and deriving more support from their spouse or partner than women. Women reported more stress from household activities and from marital/partnered conflict, and derived more support from friends and relatives than men. Hierarchal regression revealed that resources like self-esteem appear to serve as a strong buffer against the negative stressors within the married or partnered relationship. The results suggest that women's lower levels of self-esteem may put them at a greater risk for distress. The analyses shed light on how men and women respond differently to the conditions of their marriages, partially explaining the persistent gendered inequality in the reported experience of psychological distress.