Sex Roles [sers] PP059-294981 February 15, 2001 18:23 Style ﬁle version Nov. 19th, 1999
Sex Roles, Vol. 43, Nos. 9/10, 2000
Gender, Social Roles, and Mental Health:
An Epidemiological Perspective
The Florida State University
James A. Ciarlo
University of Denver
The social roles men and women occupy may account for gender differences
in rates of psychiatric disorder. Women are thought to have poorer experi-
ences within any given role (role strain theory), have more conﬂicts among
their different roles (role-conﬁguration theory), or have fewer role oppor-
tunities available to them (role accumulation hypothesis) compared to men.
These theories are examined in a community sample (n = 4,745, 52% females
and 48% males; Caucasian [84.2%], Hispanics [10.0%], African Americans
[3.8%], Native American [1.4%], Asian [0.6%], and Paciﬁc Islander [0.1%]).
No gender differences in the overall rate of DSM, psychiatric disorders were
found; however, differences were found for speciﬁc disorders. Although mul-
tiple roles were generally found to be associated with lower rates of disorders
for both men and women, some role combinations were associated with a
higher rate of disorders. The possibility that roles may be associated with both
stressors and protective factors is discussed.
Previous researchers have concluded that women have higher rates of
mental illness than do men (Fox, 1980; Gove, 1972; Gove & Tudor, 1973).
These ﬁndings are often cited even though they have been criticized for their
methodological shortcomings (see Al-Issa, 1982a, 1982b; Busﬁeld, 1982;
Cleary, 1987; Dohrenwend & Dohrenwend, 1974). Speciﬁcally, these studies
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Psychology, Florida State
University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1270.
2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation