Sex Roles [sers] pp853-sers-465622 May 20, 2003 10:47 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 49, Nos. 1/2, July 2003 (
Are Women Perceived as Engaging in More Maladaptive
Worry Than Men? A Status Interpretation
and Dolores Pushkar
Studies 1 and 2 addressed people’s perceptions of women’s and men’s overall maladaptive
worry. In Study 1, participants rated how they perceive women’s and men’s worry in general.
In Study 2, participants rated the worry of either a woman or a man whom they know well.
As expected in both studies, participants perceived women as experiencing more maladap-
tive worry than men. A second objective was to compare people’s perceptions of women’s
and men’s worry to their perceptions of low- and high-status individuals’ worry to deter-
mine if a status model can account for the perception that women worry more than men. In
Study 3, participants were presented a minimal instantiation of status (Conway, Pizzamiglio,
& Mount, 1996). As expected, participants perceived low-status individuals as experiencing
more maladaptive worry than high-status individuals. Findings are discussed in terms of gender
stereotypes and theoretical models of gender.
KEY WORDS: gender differences; status; worry.
Observers generally cannot, with much accuracy,
judge the extent of another person’s worry based
on behavioral observation because worry is an in-
trapsychic phenomenon. Although worry may be ob-
servable to the degree that people often share their
concerns with others or express their concerns non-
verbally, the extent to which people express worry
may not match the degree to which they are preoccu-
pied with worrisome thoughts. The ﬁrst objective of
the present research is to consider how people per-
ceive women’s and men’s maladaptive worry.
In the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
(1993), worry is deﬁned as “mental distress or agi-
tation resulting from concern usually for something
impending” (p. 1365). According to this deﬁnition,
worry seems to be both emotional (i.e., agitation)
Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montreal,
Center for Research in Human Development, Concordia Univer-
sity, Montreal, Qu´ebec, Canada.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Depart-
ment of Psychology, Concordia University, 7141 Sherbrooke St.
West, Montreal, Qu ´ebec, Canada H4B 1R6; e-mail: conway1@
and cognitive (i.e., concern about something impend-
ing). Some research indicates that lay persons view
worry as an emotion. Shaver, Schwartz, Kirson, and
O’Conner (1987) asked participants to rate a pool of
terms on the extent to which they considered each
term an emotion, and worry was highly rated as such.
In a second study by Shaver et al. (1987), participants
rated how similar different emotions were to one an-
other, and worry was rated as similar to both fear and
Our view concords with the lay representation
of worry as an emotion that is similar to fear and
anxiety. However, in our view worry clearly implies
thoughts concerning some threat. An emphasis on the
thought component of worry is consistent with some
anxiety researchers’ designation of worry as the cog-
nitive component of anxiety (Borkovec, Robinson,
Pruzinsky, & DePree, 1983; Stavosky & Borkovec,
1987). Stavosky and Borkovec (1987) also argued that
anxiety is closely related to fear. Others share this
view. For example,
Ohman (2000) argued that fear is
a response to an identiﬁable stimulus, and if an in-
dividual fails to cope effectively with the threat, fear
turns into anxiety.
2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation