Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 5/6, September 2005 (
Psychosocial Predictors of Psychological Distress
in Taiwanese Secondary School Boys and Girls
Patricia McCarthy Veach,
and Frances Lawrenz
This study was designed to investigate predictors of psychological distress in secondary school
boys (n =779) and girls (n = 893) in Taiwan. Participants completed anxiety and depression
scales as part of a larger study. Gender, GPA, parenting practices, self-esteem, and person-
ality/satisfaction were signiﬁcantly correlated with psychological distress. Signiﬁcant gender
differences were found in students’ psychological distress, GPA, stereotyped thinking, aca-
demic self-expectations, parental expectations, parenting practices, and mother’s education
level. Stepwise regressions revealed that self-esteem was the only signiﬁcant predictor for
boys; it accounted for 40.9% of the variance in their psychological distress. GPA, family
income, self-esteem, and parenting practices were signiﬁcant predictors for girls; they ac-
counted for 42.6% of the variance in girls’ psychological distress. Research recommendations
and educational implications are discussed.
KEY WORDS: psychological distress; Taiwan; secondary school boys and girls; mental health.
During adolescents girls and boys increase in
height and weight, acquire secondary sex character-
istics, and progress in their identity crystallization
(Wagner, 1996). These changes appear to have psy-
chological repercussions for many adolescents, offer
manifesting as a lack of self-conﬁdence, feelings
of inferiority, fear of making mistakes, timidity,
and shyness. Marcotte, Alain, and Gosselin (1999)
reported that adolescents are vulnerable to gender
socialization pressure because they are in the process
of developing gender role identiﬁcation. They tend
to adopt stereotyped expectations of their own
as well as of their peers’. In general, girls more
prone to anxiety and depression, as their gender
role is more depressogenic, whereas masculine
gender-typed characteristics, known as instrumental
characteristics, act as a buffer against depressive
symptoms in boys. Girls are less assertive and less
self-conﬁdent and have lower expectations than boys
Tainan Woman’s College of Arts and Technology.
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at 18-1 No. 5
Cheng Hsin Road, San Ming District, Kaohsiung 807, Taiwan;
regarding their ability to control important events.
The role of differential gender socialization is also
reﬂected in subtypes of depressive vulnerabilities
(Blatt, Hart, Quinlan, Leadbeater, & Auerbach,
1993; Leadbeater, Blatte, & Quinlan, 1995). A
number of studies have supported the intensiﬁca-
tion of gender-related characteristics during early
adolescence (e.g., Alﬁeri, Ruble, & Higgins, 1996).
Women who were classiﬁed “feminine” on the
Bem Sex Role Inventory have been found to be
more depressed than women classiﬁed in the other
categories (Elpern & Karp, 1984). In addition, Nezu
(1986; Nezu & Nezu, 1987) conducted studies that
support the relationship between low instrumentality
and depression in the adult population. In Taiwan,
which is deeply inﬂuenced by traditional Chinese
philosophy, a signiﬁcant number of adolescents have
reported dissatisfaction with their body shape and
behavioral performances (Wu & Smith, 1997).
Currently in Taiwan traditional Chinese cul-
tural values and practices comprise the basis of
adolescents’ socialization experiences. Diligence
and hard work are valued because they lead to
economic success that can raise the family’s social
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.