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THE EFFECT OF SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS ON PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING: ARE MEN AND WOMEN REALLY SO DIFFERENT?

*
Debra Umberson
University of Texas

Meichu D. Chen
University of Texas

James S. House
University of Michigan

Kristine Hopkins
University of Texas

Ellen Slaten
University of Texas

We assess evidence for gender differences across a range of relationships and consider whether the form and quality of these relationships affect the psychological functioning of men and women differently. Data from a national panel survey provide consistent evidence that men's and women's relationships differ However; we find little evidence for the theoretical argument that women are more psychologically reactive than men to the quality of their relationships: Supportive relationships are associated with low levels of psychological distress, while strained relationships are associated with high levels of distress for women and for men. However; if women did not have higher levels of social involvement than men, they would exhibit even higher levels of distress relative to men than they currently do. We find little evidence for the assertion that men and women react to strained relationships in genderspecific ways-for example, with alcohol consumption versus depression.

ocial theorists provide compelling reasons to expect men and women to experience relationships differently (Chodorow 1978), and many empirical studies identify gender differences in specific characteristics of social relationships. Bestsellers describe the difficulties and misunderstandings that follow from these purported gender differences (Tannen 1991). However, much of the empirical evidence for these differences is based on nonrepresentative samples or selected aspects of men's and women's relationships. Are men's and women's relationships really different? Do relationships affect the well-being of men and women in different ways? ' ~ i r e c tcorrespondence to Debra Umberson
(Umberson@jeeves.la.utexas.edu). We thank

Judith Howard, Margaret M. Marini, Arthur Sakamoto, Jordan Steiker, Yu Xie and, especially, Christine L. Williams for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. This research was supported in part by a FIRST Award to Debra Umberson (NIA #AG05440) and NIA #AGO5562 (James S. House, Principal Investigator).

Our main purpose is to assess links connecting gender, relationships, and psychological functioning. We first analyze data from a national sample to assess gender differences in the quality and quantity of a range of kin and nonkin relationships. We examine the frequency with which men and women socialize informally, the number of people to whom they feel close, and the degree to which their relationships are characterized by strain and support. We also consider whether relationships affect the psychological functioning of men and women differently. We examine whether the quality of a relationship is associated with psychological distress for one gender more than for the other. We use measures of psychological functioning that recognize that men and women may express psychological distress in different ways (Aneshensel, Rutter, and Lachenbruch 199 1).

THEORETICAL EXPLANATIONS Social theorists, working from diverse perspectives, have long argued that women are
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American Sociological Review, 1996, Vol. 61 (October:837-857)

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more nurturant and relationship-oriented than are men (Chodorow 1978; Parsons 1955). Explanations for these gender differences typically highlight the importance of early childhood experiences. Socialization theorists argue that, through the process of socialization, boys are encouraged to express traditionally male behaviors, such as aggressiveness and competitiveness, which are barriers to intimacy (Marini 1988). Girls are encouraged to restrict competition and aggression a i d to exhibit emotions and nurturance, factors that may foster intimacy and the formation of relationships. These gender differences are reinforced by peer group activities, educational processes, and the mass media (Marini 1988). Gilligan (1982) argues that gender-role socialization leads girls to develop a stronger moral sense of caring for others. Chodorow (1978) argues that because adult women tend to be the primary caretakers of infants, most children begin life with a feminine identification. Whereas boys are compelled to break with this identification to establish a masculine identity, girls are encouraged to maintain this primary attachment to their mothers. Consequently, girls, and later, adult women, often experience problems developing a strong psychological sense of separation from others. This may lead to women's "loss of self in overwhelming responsibility for and connection to others" (Chodorow 1978:59). Although Chodorow does not discuss psychological distress as an outcome of "loss of self," other writers have drawn this conclusion (Jack 1993). Supporting this point of view, Kessler and McLeod (1984) report that women's psychologlcal well-being is more adversely affected than is men's when friends and relatives encounter problems (but see Aneshensel et al. 1991). Structuralists argue that the different structural positions of adult men and women in society are associated with different opportunities, constraints, and demands that influence the types of relationships they have with others (Epstein 1988; Fischer and Oliker 1983; Kanter 1977). For example, the demands and rewards of paid work and family roles typically differ for men and women. Women are more likely to occupy subordinate positions in the paid workplace (Marini

1988; Reskin and Hartman 1986) and in marriage (Bernard 1972), to have jobs in which the provision of care and concern is a primary feature (e.g., nursing, social work) (Baines, Evans, and Neysmith 1991), and to shoulder primary responsibility for childcare, even if they are also employed outside the home (Nock and Kingston 1988). These structural contingencies are associated with particular types of interpersonal behavior. Subordinate positions are associated with expression of feelings and self-disclosure (Kollock, Blumstein, and Schwartz 1985). Childcare is associated with nurturant behavior (Risman 1987), and the demands associated with child-rearing may preclude opportunities to form and maintain relationships with adults (Fischer and Oliker 1983). Jobs requiring emotional labor and provision of care elicit nurturant behavior and require individuals to make their personal needs secondary to those of others (Baines et al. 1991; Hochschild 1983).

PREVIOUS EMPIRICAL RESEARCH Gender Differences in Relationships


Many studies have considered how relationships differ for men and women. However, the research findings are often inconsistent or limited in generalizability. Some studies have concluded that women have larger social networks than men (Veroff, Kulka, and Douvan 1981). However, recent research suggests that men's and women's social networks are similar in size (Moore 1990). Other studies report that women are more likely than men to have a confidant-a person with whom they have an emotionally intimate relationship-while men have more ties to formal associations (Booth 1972). Women report that they receive more s o c ~ a l support from coworkers, relatives, friends (Turner and Marino 1994), and adult children (Umberson 1992b) than do men. Wellman and Wortley (1990) find that women are more likely than men to provide social support to both kin and nonkin. Results are inconsistent regarding social support within marriage-some suggest that women provide more social support to their spouses than do men (Vanfossen 1981), while others suggest that men and women receive similar levels

GENDER AND RELATIONSHIPS

of social support from their spouses (Turner and Marino 1994). Women are more likely than men to provide care to sick and elderly relatives (Gerstel and Gallagher 1993).

Relationships and Psychological Well-Being


Two separate literatures examine the effects of relationships on the psychological functioning of men and women: the literature on social support and integration, which emphasizes the positive consequences of relationship involvement, and the literature on role strains, which emphasizes the costs. Social support/integration. Social support (the emotionally sustaining content of relationships) and social integration (the existence of certain key relationships) both have been linked to mental health outcomes. The positive association of social support with well-being is supported by hundreds of studies (House, Umberson, and Landis 1988). Although most studies include a control variable for sex of respondent, the possibility of gender differences in the effect of social support on well-being typically is not explored (House et al. 1988). However, Turner and Marino (1994) find that social support from several relationships has similar effects on men's and women's levels of depression. Research on social integration and well-being has a longer tradition in sociology, but yields inconsistent results regarding gender differences. Although social integration may inhere in various types of social involvements, most research focuses on marriage as a key source of social integration. Research in the 1970s suggests that the married were in better mental health than the unmarried and that this marital benefit was greater for men than for women (Gove and Tudor 1973). However, recent studies question whether there is a mental health advantage associated with marriage for either men or women, at least when the comparison group is the never-married (Horwitz and White 1991; Fox 1980). The married do exhibit better mental health than the divorced or widowed, presumably because the latter groups have lost a key source of social integration (Gerstel, Reissman, and Rosenfield 1985; Umberson, Wortman, and Kessler 1992). Two longitudinal surveys provide inconsistent results re-

garding gender differences and divorce: Aseltine and Kessler (1993) report that women's mental health is more adversely affected by divorce than men's, while Booth and Amato (1991) find no gender differences in the mental health effects of divorce. Umberson et al. (1992) report that widowhood has stronger adverse effects on depression for men than for women. Role strains. Many studies attempt to explain women's higher rates of psychological distress by examining gender differences in family and job roles. Such studies often point to relational aspects of men's and women's roles as contributing to distress. Women's roles and relationships are often seen as more demanding and less rewarding than men's, therefore more conducive to depression. For example, marital relationships (Gove and Tudor 1973), relationships with children (Simon 1992), and relationships with impaired family members (Gerstel and Gallagher 1993) may be characterized by more demands and obligations for women than for men (Aneshensel and Pearlin 1987; Lennon and Rosenfield 1992). Studies often consider how role strains contribute to the gender differences in depression. Few studies consider whether equivalent levels of role strain affect men and women differently and those studies provide mixed results. Pearlin and Lieberman (1979) conclude that marital strains have stronger effects on women than on men while Barnett (1994), who restricted her analysis to dual-earner couples, finds no gender difference in the impact of marital role strain on distress. Young and Kahana (1989) report that women experience more distress than do men as a result of caregiving, while Gerstel and Gallagher (1993) find no gender difference. Simon (1992) concludes that parental role strain affects men and women similarly. In sum, previous findings on gender differences in relationships and psychological functioning are inconsistent. One problem with summarizing these findings is that each study, even those using representative community samples, focuses on a narrow range of relationship types and dimensions. As a result, generalizations about overall patterns of gender differences in relationships cannot be drawn. Furthermore, gender differences in the effects of relationships on psychological

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functioning may depend on how we measure psychological distress.

Gendered Expressions of Psychological Distress


Most community studies of psychological distress have emphasized measures of depression. These studies consistently find that women are more depressed than men (Mirowsky and Ross 1989). However, several recent studies provide persuasive evidence that men and women simply express psychological distress in different ways: "Depression and some anxiety disorders [are] more common among women than among men, and antisocial personality and alcohol abuse-dependence [are] more common among men than women" (Aneshensel et al. 1991: 168). Recent research shows that stressful life events and financial strain (Aneshensel et al. 1991), marital conflict (Horwitz and Davies 1994), and negative work conditions (Lennon 1987) are more strongly associated with substance abuse for men and psychological distress for women. Examining only one gender-typed expression of distress may bias results, making it appear that one sex is more psychologically reactive than the other to their relationships. The literature on gendered expressions of distress emphasizes the need to include male-prevalent and femaleprevalent expressions of distress when studying gender differences in psychological reactions to stress and relationship quality (Aneshensel et al. 1991; Horwitz and Davies 1994).

RESEARCH DESIGN
Previous research on gender differences in relationships is limited because many studies rely on nonrepresentative samples or analyze only one type of relationship (e.g., marital relationships or friendships) or only one dimension of relationships (e.g., supportive aspects, but not strained aspects). Furthermore, studies typically do not examine gender differences in the impact of relationships on psychological well-being, and when they do they consider only one gender-prevalent dimension of psychological functioning. We address each of these issues and extend our theoretical understanding of gendered social

experiences (as expressed in the quantity and quality of relationships) and gendered expressions of psychological distress (as expressed in depression and alcohol consumption). We use a nationally representative sample that is uniquely suited to address the issue of gender differences in relationships and the impact of relationships on well-being. This sample includes information on numerous types and aspects of social relationships and the respondents' psychological functioning. The few studies that have considered gender differences in the effects of relationships have tended to rely on crosssectional data. Results based on cross-sectional data cannot tell us whether the association between relationships and psychological distress is ephemeral or long-lasting. We examine this issue by using a two-wave panel survey to analyze gender differences in the impact of relationships on change in psychological functioning over time. We address four questions raised by previous theoretical and empirical work on gender and relationships: (1) Are there consistent gender differences across measures of social integration, social support, relationship strain, and provision of care? (2) Are women more psychologically reactive than men to the form and content of their relationships, and do gender differences in the psychological effects of relationships depend on gender-typed expressions of psychological distress? (3) Do gender differences in relationships explain some of the gender differences in alcohol consumption and depression? (4) Does the quality of relationships have long-term effects on psychological functioning, and do such effects differ according to gender?

DATA
The data are from a national two-wave panel survey ("Americans' Changing Lives") conducted in the contiguous United States (House 1986). Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 3,617 persons ages 24 and older in 1986. In 1989, 2,867 of the original respondents were reinterviewed.' The survey
I Attrition between surveys was 21 percent ( N = 750). Twenty-two percent of the attrition was

due to mortality; the rest was due to nonresponse.

GENDER AND RELATIONSHIPS

was designed to evaluate stress, social relationships, and health over the life course. Interviews averaged about 9 0 minutes in length. Our basic analyses concerning gender differences in relationships are based on the 1986 survey of 3,617 individuals. Analyses of gender differences in the effects of relationships on psychological functioning are based on the 1986 and 1989 surveys.

Measures
"Social relationships" is a general term comprising three theoretically distinct dimensions: social integration, social networks, and relational content (House et al. 1988). Social integration refers to the existence, quantity, or frequency of specific relationships. Relational content refers to the quality of relationships. Social networks refer to the structures existing among a set of relationships (e.g., homogeneity). We focus primarily on measures of social integration and relational content in several different types of relationships. Social integration. The measures of formal and informal social integration are derived from work by Veroff et al. (1981). Formal social integration is measured with a scale based on responses to two questions: (1) "How often do you attend meetings or programs of groups, clubs, or organizations that you belong to?" and (2) "How often do you usually attend religious service^?"^ Informal social integration is measured with a scale developed from two survey questions: (1) "How often d o you get together with friends, neighbors, or relatives and do things like go out together or visit in each other's homes?" and (2) "In a typical week, about how many times do you talk on the telephone with friends, neighbors, or relatives?" Response categories for each social integration question include: "more than once a week," "once a week," "two or three times a month," "about once a month," "less than once a month," and "never." Advisoq integration refers to the number of individuals available for advice or help and was measured by asking respondents: "About how many friends or other relatives (i.e., other than spouse, chil* A l l scales were constructed by summing item responses and converting scores to z-scores.

dren, parents) do you have whom you could call on for advice or help if you needed it?" Relational content. Social support refers to the positive, emotionally sustaining qualities of relationships, whereas relationship strain refers to the negative or demanding aspects of relationships. These positive and negative qualities of relationships can have independent effects on well-being (House et al. 1988). Specific measures, based on work by House and his colleagues (House and Kahn 1985), are obtained for relationships with one's spouse, children over the age bf 16, mothers, fathers, and friends and relatives (other than spouse, child, or parent). The social support scales are based on two questions: "How much does your (type of relationship, e.g., spouse) make you feel loved and cared for?" and "How much is (helshe) willing to listen when you need to talk about your worries or problems?" The relationship strain scales are based on responses to two items: (1) "How much do you feel (helshe) makes too many demands on you?" and (2) "How much is (helshe) critical of you or what you do?" Response categories for the support and strain measures include "a great deal," "quite a bit," "some," "a little," and "not at all." Supportive ties are also evaluated with a confidant measure: "Is there anyone in your life with whom you can really share your very private thoughts and feelings" (0 = no, 1 = yes). In addition, respondents were asked how many confidants they have. The health regulation measure is based on research suggesting that an important function of relationships is to affect the health and health behaviors of significant others (House et al. 1988). Respondents were asked "How often does anyone tell or remind you to do anything to protect your health (often, sometimes, rarely, or never)?" Scores range from 1 to 4 with high scores indicating more frequent regulation. The provision of care to those who cannot fully care for themselves may be an important source of relationship strain (Gerstel and Gallagher 1993). We include four measures of care provision. The first measure determines whether respondents provide care to others because of "physical or mental illness, disability, or for some other reason." Respondents were asked "Are you currently involved in helping someone like this by caring for

AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

them directly or arranging for their care by Items were coded so that high scores indiothers?" (0 = no, 1 = yes). Those respondents cate high levels of depression. Very high who reported a care-provider role were asked scores may indicate clinical depression, but how many hours during the previous year as measured here, scores represent a conthey spent providing care for acute and tinuum of distress (Mirowsky and Ross chronic health conditions. Care-provider 1989). The CES-D Scale has consistently stress was measured with a single item: demonstrated reliability and validity in com"How stressful is it for you to care for (him/ munity surveys (Radloff 1977). her) or to arrange for (histher) care?" ReAlcohol consumption is typically measponse categories were "very," "quite," sured by considering both frequency of drin"somewhat," "not too," or "not at all stress- king and amount consumed (Berkman and ful." T h e potential confounding of role Breslow 1983). However, there may be probstrains with psychological outcomes is re- lems with using total alcohol consumption as duced somewhat by excluding any language a measure of distress because longitudinal of distress in the wording of the strain ques- health and mortality data indicate that modtion (Pearlin 1989). An exploratory analysis erate drinking is associated with better health (not shown) indicated that inclusion of care- outcomes than is heavy drinking or abstiprovider hours in the analysis reduces the es- nence (Berkman and Breslow 1983). We timated effect of provider strain on distress code alcohol use as a trichotomy: nondrinkin the present sample. This also suggests that ers, moderate drinkers (fewer than 90 drinks per month), and heavy drinkers (90 drinks or strain reflects the nature of care provision. Sociodemographic variables. The primary more per month). These amounts are based independent variable is gender (0 = male, 1 on previous research on alcohol and health = female). Sociodemographic variables in- outcomes (Berkman and Breslow 1983). We clude employment status (0 = not employed, calculated alcohol consumption per month 1 = employed full-time or part-time), marital by multiplying the number of days in the past status (married, divorced, widowed, and month on which the respondent reported never-married-married is the excluded cat- drinking by the number of drinks the responegory), parental status (childless, children dent reported typically drinking on those under 18 in the house, children age 18 or days. Means and standard deviations of all variolder in the house, children of any age living in a separate residence-childless is the ex- ables are presented in Table 1, along with the cluded category), income (in thousands of t-values for the difference between the means dollars), age (in years), education (in years), for men and women and alpha reliability coefficients for multi-item measures. The mean and race (1 = African American, 0 = other). Psychological well-being. We analyze two scores support much previous research indimeasures of psychological functioning that cating that women exhibit higher levels of have been identified as more prevalent for depression than do men while men exhibit one gender or the other-depression and al- higher levels of alcohol consumption than do cohol consumption (Aneshensel et al. 1991). women. Depression is measured with an 1 1-item version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale. Respondents RESULTS were asked how often they experienced each Are There Gender Differences in of the following feelings during the previous Relationships? week: "I felt depressed," "I felt lonely," "people were unfriendly," "I enjoyed life," "I The mean scores on relationship variables, did not feel like eating, my appetite was presented separately for men and women in poor," "I felt sad," "I felt that people disliked Table 1, provide striking evidence for gender me," "I could not get going," "I felt that ev- differences in most relationship characteriserything I did was an effort," "my sleep was tics. Concerning general relationships, worestless," and "I was happy." Response op- men report greater formal and informal sotions for each question were "hardly ever," cial integration, more support from friends, "some of the time," and "most of the time." and say they are more likely to have a confi-

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Table 1. Means and Standard Deviations for Variables Used in the Analysis: U.S. Adults Ages 24 to 96 in 1986
Men Variable Mean S.D. Women T-value for Gender Difference

Mean

S.D.

Alpha

General Relationships, 1986 Informal social integration


Formal social integration Advisory integration Friendtrelative social support Friendtrelative strain Has confidant Number of confidants Health regulation

-.25 -.06 9.15

1.06 .99 8.98 1.07 1.01 .37 1.89 1.14

-. 19
-.03 .84 2.21 2.01

Family Relationships, 1986 Spouse social support


Spouse strain Child social support Child strain Father social support Father strain Mother social support Mother strain

Care-Giving Relationships, 1986 Care provider


Care-provider strain Hours of acute care provision Hours of chronic care provision

.15 2.29

.35 1.22

1,358 199 199 199 1,358 1,037 1,358 1,037

.17 2.69 30.62 120.60 .19 .09 6.39 5.15

.38 1.21 61.56 78.31 1.08 1.04 18.56 17.94

2,259 386 386 386 2,259 1,830 2,259 1,830

-1.96' -3.77"' -3.23*'* -2.95** -6.32*** -5.02"" 13.41"' 9.90"'

NA

NA NA
NA .89 .82
NA

16.88 40.39 100.75 76.55 .99 .97 48.96 35.32

Psychological Functioning Depression, 1986


Depression, 1989 Alcohol consumption, 1986 Alcohol consumption, 1989
*P < .05
111

-.03

-. 10
24.95 16.77

NA

**p< .01

p < ,001 (two-tailed tests)

dant. Men, however, report greater advisory integration and health regulation from others. The measures on which women score higher than men indicate that women are more involved in intimate relationships. Concerning family relationships, gender differences depend on the particular relationship examined. Compared to men, women report more social support from their adult children. Compared to women, men report

more social support from their spouses. There are no gender differences in respondents' reports of support from their mothers and fathers. Although women's family roles are often portrayed in the literature as more demanding than men's, women report less strain than do men in relationships with their spouses, mothers, and fathers. For cure-giving relationships, women score higher than men on all measures.

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Women are more likely to provide care to others. Compared to men who provide care, women also spend more hours providing care and report more strain associated with their care-provider role. Although there are statistically significant differences on most relationship measures, what does this mean in a practical sense? Some of the differences are quite small. For example, 87 percent of women and 84 percent of men in our sample identify someone as a confidant. Seventeen percent of women and 15 percent of men provide or arrange care for an impaired person. However, other gender differences are more striking. For example, while most men and women have a confidant, 49 percent of men, but only 20 percent of women identify their spouse as their primary confidant (p < ,002). Also, among those who provide or arrange care for others, women average 3 1 hours per year caring for individuals with acute care needs, while men average 17 hours per year. Furthermore, the care-provision measure refers to arranging o r providing care to others. Among those respondents who are care providers (N = 199), 83 percent of the female care providers provide direct care (or provide and arrange care), while only 71 percent of the male care providers are involved in direct care provision ( p < .OO 1). Next we assess evidence for the structuralist hypothesis that gender differences in relationships derive from the contingencies faced by men and women in their paid work and family roles. For example, regarding paid work, the parenting role may be more constraining for women than it is for men; and being a parent may interfere with women's potential for informal social integration, but have little impact on men. We assessed this issue by regressing each of the relationship variables (one model for each relationship measure) on gender, the sociodemographic variables, and interaction terms between gender and each of the role-status variables (i.e., employment status, parental status, and marital status). Significant interaction terms suggest that the estimated effect of gender on relationships depends on men's and women's social roles. The models reported in Tables 2 through 4 are the final models; they do not include interaction terms when, in the base models, there were no sig-

nificant interactions @ < .05), or in the final models, interactions were not statistically significant. The coefficient for gender from the base model (without interactions) is also provided for those models that included interaction terms. General relationships. Paralleling the gender differences reported in Table 1, Table 2 shows that women score higher than men on informal social integration, formal social integration, and social support from friends and relatives; women score lower than men on advisory integration. Gender differences in health regulation and having a confidant depend on men's and women's family roles. For example, having an adult child in the home or a child living outside the home significantly increases men's probability of having a confidant while the effect on women is not ~ i g n i f i c a n tPerhaps .~ men face fewer of the social constraints associated with parenting, and are less likely than women to have confidants outside of family, leading them to rely more on adult children for their close relationships. The estimated effect of gender on health regulation depends on marital status: Divorced and never-married men are significantly less likely than their female counterparts to report that others attempt to regulate their health. Among the married, however, men are much more likely than women to report that others attempt to regulate their health. It is not surprising that married men experience more health regulation than do married women (or other men) because traditional gender roles typically encourage women to monitor the health of husbands (Umberson 1992a). Family relationships. Table 3 presents coefficients predicting family relationships. We calculated the effects of parental status separately for men and women. The effects of parental status for men are the main effects of parental status in Table 2 (-,035, .796*, and ,478' for having a minor in the home, having an adult child in the home, having a child outside the home). The effects of parental status for women are equal to the sum of the main effect and the corresponding interaction (-,432, -.373, ,136). The standard errors for these effects are also calculated (.232, ,225, ,202). The detailed calculation for these and other effects involved in interactions is available from the authors.

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Table 2. Unstandardized Coefficients from the Regression of General Relationships on Gender and Selected Independent Variables: U. S. Adults Ages 24 to 96 in 1986
General Relationships Informal Social Integration Formal Social Integration Wend/ Relative Social Support Friend1 Number Advisory Relative Has of InteStrain Confidant Confidants gration Health Regulation

Independent Variable Gender (Female)' Base model (without interactions) Final model (with interactions)

,318"'
-

,202"'
-

,385"'
-

-.020
-

,042" ,791"'

,070
-

-.684*
-

-. 139"'
-.280***

Sociodemographic Variables Marital Statusb ,098' Divorcedlseparated Widowed ,296"' Never-married Parental StatusC Child < 18 at home Child 2 18 at home Child away, any age African American Employed Family income Years of education Age Interactions Child < 18 x female Child 2 18 x female Child away x female Divorced x female Widowed x female Never-married x female Constant Rzllog-likelihood

-.083

-.278**' -.098* -.083 ,021 -.273*** -.078

, 2 5 3 " ' . -.679*** -. 130 -1.297" -.034 ,540"' -.I66 -.500 ,156' -1.1 1 9 " ' -.267* -1.231'

-.294** -.I95 -.406***

-.397 -1.169" -.342


-

,387"' ,222 ,468"' 2.715"' ,018

-.272* -1.273"' ,071 ,100

-.670*** ,786"' 2.035"' ,049 .lo6 -1,417

1.875"' ,024

8.206"' ,031

Note: OLS regression was used for continuous dependent variables and RZ is reported; logistic regression was used for dichotomous dependent variables and log-likelihood is reported. Standard errors are available from the authors. N = 3,617. a "Gender" coefficients for base and final models are provided for comparison if the base model is not the final model. "Married" is the omitted category. ' p S .05 "Childless" is the omitted category. ** *** p 5.01 p S ,001(two-tailed tests)

Compared to men, women report lower levels of strain with fathers and spouses and lower levels of social support from spouses. An interaction between gender and being divorced when predicting social support from

children aged 16 and older occurs primarily because being divorced lowers the receipt of social support from older children much more for men than for women. This may occur because divorce is more likely to result

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Table 3. Unstandardized Coefficients from the Regression of Family Relationships on Gender and Selected Independent Variables: U. S. Adults Ages 24 to 96 in 1986 Family Relationships Independent Variable Father Social Support Father Strain Mother Social Support Mother Strain Spouse Social Support Spouse Strain Child Social Support Child Strain

Ger~der (Female)" Base model (withoutinteractions) Final model (with interactions)

-.010

-.195***
-

,021
-

-.075
-

-.424"*

-.130**
-

,323"' ,246"'

,004
-

Sociodemograplzic Variables Marital Statush Divorcedlseparated -.226" Widowed ,069 Never-married -.021
Parental StatusL Child < 18 at home 2 18 at home Ch~ld Child away, any age African American Employed Family ~ n c o m e Years of educat~on Age

,092 ,056 ,075

-. 118

,059 -.lo4

,199" ,051 ,156'

-.074 ,323 -.021

,093 ,264 ,031

-.726*** ,177" ,126 -.004 -.598 -.080

Itlternctior~s Divorced x female Widowed x female Never-married x female


Constant R2 Number of cases

-.I 17 ,019 1,231

,719"' ,054 2,075

-. 187

.558***
-. 150

,539 -.814"* ,094 2,337

,716" ,068 1,231

,148 ,016 1,885

,776"' ,080 1,885

,044 2,075

,587"' ,132 2,337

Note: OLS regression was used for continuous dependent variables. Logistic regression was used for dichotomous dependent variables. Standard errors are available from the authors.
"'Gender" coefficients for base and final models are provided for comparison if the base model is not the final model. "Married" is the omitted category. "Childless" is the omitted category.

*p 5 .05

I*

p 5.01

***

< ,001

(two-tailed tests)

in less contact and lower-quality relationships with children for fathers than for mothers (Aauilino 1994; Cooney 1994). , . Care-provider relationships. Consideration of sociodemographic variables does not alter the basic results for care-provider relationships reported in Table 1. Table 4 shows that women are more likely than men to be care providers, to spend more hours providing care, and to experience more strain in the

care-provider role, regardless of family and work roles.

Do Relationships Affect the Psychological Functioning of Men and Women Dqferently ?


We test whether relationships affect the psychological functioning of men and women in different ways or to different degrees. We

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Table 4. Unstandardized Coefficients from the Regression of Care-Giving Relationships on Gender and Selected Independent Variables: U. S. Adults Ages 24 to 96 in 1986
Care-Provider Relationships Independent Variable Gender (Female) Base model (without interactions) Sociodemographic Variables Marital Status" Divorcedtseparated Widowed Parental Statusc Child < 18 at home Child 2 18 at home Child away, any age African American Employed Family income Years of education Age Constant R2/log-likelihood Number of cases Care Provider CareProvider Strain Hours Providing Chronic Care Hours Providing Acute Care

,235"

,443"'

6.80"'

8.615"'

-.312* -.766**'

-. 107
-.236

-4.974 -13.069"'

7.246" 1.546

-.055 ,276 ,354' ,212' -.017 -.006* ,037' ,000 2.125"' -1,573 3,617

,011 -.234 ,092

-6.990' 3.303 3.796 5.100" -.953 -.043

2.069 3.233 4.947 -3.174 -.999 ,075

-. 184
-.026 ,001 ,024 ,002 1.934"' ,057 585

11.651 .0 17 3,617

4.756 ,026 3,617

Note: OLS regression was used for continuous dependent variables and R2 is reported; logistic regression was used for dichotomous dependent variables and log-likelihood is reported. Standard errors are available from the authors. "Married" is the omitted category. "Childless" is the omitted category. ** *** p < .01 ' p 5 .05 p < ,001 (two-tailed tests)

begin by estimating the effects of relationships on depression and alcohol use using the 1986 cross-sectional survey data. This analysis examines the association between current relationship involvement and current psychological functioning. We tested a series of intermediate models to derive the final model for each of the dependent variables, depression and alcohol use. We began by estimating separate models for each possible interaction between gender and a relationship measure when predicting depression and alcohol use. We regressed depression scores and alcohol use on gender, the sociodemographic variables, all relationship variables, and an interaction term for gender with one

of the relationship variables. If more than one interaction was significant when predicting a dependent variable, we estimated additional models that included all statistically significant interaction terms to determine if a particular interaction was a predominant source of the effect. Variables indicating missing data for were also included. Table 5 presents two models for depression, nondrinker, and heavy drinker. In each case, Model 1 includes the sociodemographic variables, gender, and the relationship measures; Model 2 is a restricted final model, which includes gender, all significant sociodemographic variables, all significant relationship measures, significant interaction terms, and

AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

the corresponding lower-order relationship measures involved in interaction^.^ General relationships. For depression, the restricted model (Model 2 in Table 5) shows that six of the eight general relationship measures are significantly associated with depression: informal social integration, formal social integration, social support from friends and relatives, and advisory integration are associated with lower levels of depression, while health regulation and friendtrelative relationship strain are associated with elevated levels of depression. The integration, support, and strain measures are associated with depression in the expected direction. Perhaps the health regulation measure is positively associated with depression because efforts from others to regulate health behavior are perceived as critical and demanding or because poor health may be associated with depression and elicit regulation efforts from others (Umberson 1992b). None of the interactions between gender and the general relationship measures are statistically significant, suggesting that these general aspects of relationships affect men's and women's levels of depression in similar ways. Few of the general relationship measures are associated with alcohol use. Formal social integration increases the probability of being a nondrinker (compared to being a moderate drinker) and decreases the probability of being a heavy drinker (compared to being a moderate drinker). This may occur because the measure of formal social integration includes participation in religious organizations, which often precludes alcohol use. Strain with friends and relatives decreases the probability of being a nondrinker (as opposed to being a moderate drinker), but does not significantly increase the probability of being a heavy drinker. An interaction between gender and informal social integration indicates that informal social integration significantly decreases the probability of being a nondrinker (compared to being a moderate drinker) for women but not for men. Family relationships. Social support from one's spouse and adult children is inversely associated with depression, while strain in
"esults for the intermediate models are available from the authors.

relationships with one's spouse, mother, and father is positively associated with depression (Table 5, Model 2 for depression). These family relationship measures have similar effects on depression for men and women. An interaction between gender and child relationship strain remains in the final model for depression: Relationship strain with children over age 16 significantly contributes to depression for women but not for men. For alcohol use, two significant interactions between gender and spouse relationship measures suggest that spouse relationship quality is associated with alcohol use in different ways for men and women. Social support from one's spouse significantly decreases women's, probability of being heavy drinkers (compared to being a moderate drinker), but has no significant effect for men. Spouse relationship strain and gender significantly interact when predicting being a nondrinker but the effect of spouse relationship strain on alcohol use is not statistically significant for either gender. Previous research has suggested that marital status per se may be an important indicator of social integration that affects men and women differently (Gove and Tudor 1973). To explore this possibility, we estimated models (not shown) that included an interaction between gender and marital status when predicting psychological functioning. The results indicated that the effect of marital status on depression and the probability of being a nondrinker is similar for men and women. However, the analysis revealed a significant interaction between marital status and gender when predicting being a heavy drinker: Being divorced increases the probability of being a heavy drinker for men and women, but this effect is significant only for women. Divorce and heavy drinking may be more strongly associated for women because heavy drinking may be more likely to lead to divorce for women than for men (Mulford 1977). Care-provider relationships. Hours spent providing care for acute conditions and careprovider strain are positively associated with depression, and these estimated effects are similar for men and women. None of the care-provider measures or interactions between gender and these measures attained statistical significance when predicting alcohol use (see Table 5).

GENDER AND RELATIONSHIPS

849

Table 5. Unstandardized Coefficients from the Regression of Depression, Nondrinker, and Heavy Drinker on Selected Independent Variables: U.S. Adults Ages 24 to 96 in 1986
Depression Independent Variable Gender (female)
Sociodetnographic Variables

Nondrinker Model I Model 2

Heavy Drinker Model 1 Model 2

Model 1

Model 2

Marital Status" DivorcedISeparated Widowed Never-married Parental Statusb Child < 18 at home Child 2 18 at home Child away, any age African American Employed Family income Years of education Age
General Re(at~onships Informal social integration

Formal social integration Friendlrelative support Friendlrelative strain Has confidant Number of confidants Number of advisors Advisory integration Health regulation
(Table 5 contlt~ued on next page)

Do Gender Differences in Relationships Explain Gender Differences in Psychological Functioning?


Table 5 shows that, even with controls for all of the relationship measures, there are significant gender differences in depression and alcohol consumption. This suggests that taking into account the nature of relationships does not explain the higher levels of depression among women or the higher levels of alcohol consumption among men. We compared the results in Table 5 to results from our basic models (not shown), in which we regressed the dependent variables only on the sociodemographic variables. A comparison of the coefficient for gender in the basic models and the final models in Table 5 suggests how

inclusion of the relationship measures affects the coefficient for gender when predicting depression and alcohol consumption. The coefficient for gender actually increases by 33 percent (from , 1 2 3 to , 1 8 3 ) when predicting d e p r e ~ s i o n This . ~ suggests that women's greater involvement in positive relationships may protect them from depression and that if we were able to equalize relationships for men and women, the gender gap in depression would actually increase (also see Turner and Marino 1 9 9 4 ) . The coefficients for genT h e coefficient of ,183 is from the model that includes t h e g e n d e r x child strain interaction; therefore the coefficient is valid when child strain e q u a l s 0. B e c a u s e the overall m e a n f o r child strain in the sample is 0, the coefficient is reasonably applied to the sample as a whole.

850
(Table 5 continued from previous page)

AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

Depression Independent Variable


Family Relationships Spouse social support Spouse strain Child social support Child strain Father social support Father strain Mother social support Mother strain Care-Giving Relationships Care provider Provider strain Hours of acute care Hours of chronic care Interactions Child strain x female Spouse support x female Spouse strain x female Informal social integration x female Data Presence IndicatorsC Relationships with spouse Relationships with children Relationships with mother Relationships with father

Nondrinker Model 1 ,060 ,002 -.047 -.021 ,091 ,106 -.060 -.085 -.I51 ,003 -.001 ,002
-

Heavy Drinker Model 1 -.009 ,171 -. 184 -. 106 -.032 .05 1 ,180 ,104 ,501 ,117 -.001 -.004
-

Model 1 -.135*** ,061" -.075**' ,042 ,028 ,079" -.029 ,055' -.I27 ,097" ,001' -.000
-

Model 2 -.139*** ,065" -.082*** -.035


-

Model 2 .06 1 -.I39


-

Model 2 ,144 ,134


-

.072**
-

,067" -.I74 ,042" ,001


-

. I 12"
-

-.020 ,228'

-.703* -.010 -.358 -.409 -

-. 172'
,004
-

,339"' -.010 ,037 -.074 ,604"' ,245

,300"' ,014 ,037 -.063 ,599"' ,244

-.030 -.029 ,103 -. 144 .577 -2,467

-.611 -1.3 18"' ,327 -. 144 1.297 -2,479

-.891 -2,479

Constant ~~Ilog-likelihood

,377 -2,467

Arore: OLS regression was used to assess the depression variable and R2 is reported. Multinomial logit models (LIMDEP) were used to assess the trichtomous alcohol use outcome and log-likelihood is reported. Number of cases for each alcohol category is: 1837 for nondrinker, 130 for heavy drinker, and 1650 for moderate drinker. Standard errors are available from the authors. N = 3,617. "'Married" is the omitted category. "Childless" is the omitted category. "Nonmissing" is the omitted category. * * *p < .001 (two-tailed tests) * p < .05 **p 5 .Ol

der when predicting alcohol use are largely unchanged by inclusion of the relationship measures, suggesting that involvement in relationships does not influence the observed gender difference in alcohol use.

Relationship Change and Psychological Functioning


To this point, we have considered how ongoing relationships are associated with current

psychological functioning. However, the quality of relationships may have more lasting effects on psychological functioning. For example, spouse relationship strain in one year may be associated with a decline in psychological well-being over the next several years, and this effect may differ for men and women. We assess the long-term effects of relationships on psychological functioning by regressing the 1989 values for depression and alcohol consumption on gender, the 1989 val-

GENDER AND RELATIONSHIPS

ues of the sociodemographic variables, mea- is associated with significantly higher levels sure of change in relationships (1989 value of alcohol consumption for men but has little minus the 1986 value), the 1989 values for effect on women's alcohol consumption. the relationship measures, and the 1986 value However, high levels of alcohol consumption for the d e ~ e n d e n t variable. We include the do not necessarily indicate heavy drinking, 1989 value's for the relationship measures to merely higher consumption levels than for control for the effects of current relationship those men who do not have a confidant. status on psychological functioning. The reCausal order. Longitudinal studies provide lationship change measures are included to persuasive evidence that social relationships assess the lasting impact of 1986 relation- have a causal effect on subsequent well-beships on psychological functioning in 1989. ing (House et al. 1988). However, serious Alcohol consumption is measured as a con- depression and alcohol problems undoubttinuous variable for the analysis reported in edly affect the availability and quality of reTable 6 because we are predicting the impact lationships. To sort out the nature of this reciprocity is of relationships on a subsequent increase or decrease in alcohol consumption. We fol- beyond the scope of this study. We begin to lowed the same estimation procedures de- address issues of causality by examining the scribed for the analysis presented in Table 5 impact of relationships on subsequent levels to derive final models that also include sig- of depression and alcohol consumption. nificant interactions between gender and the However, causal order cannot be established relationship variables. Results are presented by longitudinal data over a three-year period. in Table 6. Again, two models are presented Relationships change over time and are probfor each dependent variable: Model 1 shows ably reciprocally influenced by psychologicomplex association that rethe results without interaction effects; Model cal state-a 2 shows only significant effects from Model quires a much longer longitudinal profile to untangle. 1, including significant interaction effect^.^ Table 6 shows that increases in formal social integration and advisory integration are associated with reduced depression over time. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION Increased friendlrelative support is associated Are There Gender Differences in with reduced alcohol consumption over time. Relationships ? These beneficial long-term effects of relationships are similar for men and women. Clearly, men and women have different relaHours of acute care provision are positively tionships. Women score higher than men on associated with alcohol c o n s u m ~ t i o nover measures indicating more intimate and infortime. None of the other relationship change mal social ties, such as having a confidant, measures is associated with psychological receiving social support from friends and functioning in 1989 for either men or women. family, and visiting with friends. Women also The cross-sectional associations between are more likely to provide care to impaired 1989 relationships and psychological func- individuals. Although men report less social tioning in 1989 largely parallel the 1986 support from most relationships (except in cross-sectional results. Two significant inter- marriage), they report having more people to actions between 1989 relationships and gen- call on for advice or help, and they are more der occur in the final models of Table 6. The likely to have someone attempt to regulate gender x child social support interaction in- their health. We conclude that men receive dicates that social support from children is more of the instrumental aspects of relationassociated with lower levels of depression for ships (e.g., practical, tangible aspects) while women, but not for men. Having a confidant women receive more of the intimate, interactive aspects of relationships. Women also Nonsignificant variables may be presented in provide instrumental aspects of relationships Table 6 because a nonsignificant variable is involved in a significant interaction term or, in the as suggested by their higher levels of carecase of models predicting heavy drinker or non- giving. Most research on relationships has drinker, a variable was significant in predicting focused on the emotional functions of relationships, such as social support (e.g., feelthe other drinking category.

852

AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

Table 6. Unstandardized Coefficients from the Regression of Depression and Alcohol Consumption in 1989 on Selected Independent Variables: U.S. Adults Ages 24 to 96 in 1986
Depression, 1989 Independent Variable Gender (female)
Sociodemographic Variables, 1989 Marital Status" Divorcedlseparated Widowed Never-married

Alcohol Consumption, 1989 Model I -4.749"' Model 2 .I 12

Model 1 ,029

Model 2 ,028

-.043 ,038 .03 1 ,068 ,068 ,067

Parental statusb Child < 18 at home Child 2 18 at home Child away, any age Employed African American Family income Years of education Age Relationship Chunge, 1986-1 989 Formal social integration Advisory integration Friendlrelative support Hours of acute care provision
General Relationships, 1989 Informal social integration Formal social lntegratlon Friendlrelative social support

-. 182"'
,069 -.003*** -.O 19"' -.003
-

-. 145"'
-.003*** -.018***
-

-.047** -,058*** -.05 1 . I 15*** ,004 -.012 -.003 ,055"'

-.062** -.006 -

Friendlrelative strain Has confidant Number of confidants Instumental integration Health regulation, 1986

(Tuble 6 tontlnued on next page)

ing cared for and listened to). Future research on gender and relationships should include measures of the receipt and provision of instrumental and emotional aspects of relationships. Finally, marital, parental, and employment status usually have similar effects on men's and women's relationships.

Are Women More Psychologically Reactive than Men to Their Relationships?


Our second major finding is that there are few gender differences in the effects of relationships on psychological functioning. Con-

trary to much sociological theory, women do not seem to be more psychologically sensitive than men to the circumstances and quality of their relationships. When men and women are involved in similar relationships, those relationships affect levels of depression and alcohol use of men and women in strikingly similar ways. This finding supports the structuralist position that similar social conditions elicit similar psychological reactions from individuals. Previous studies of the effects of social relationships have focused almost exclusively on symptoms of depression. However, be-

GENDER AND RELATIONSHIPS


(Table 6 c.onrinueii from
previous

853

pujie)

Depression, 1989 Independent Variable


Faniily relnrionshi[~r, 1989 Spouse s o c ~ a l support

Alcohol Consumption, 1989 Model I Model 2

Model I

Model 2

Spouse \train Child social support Child strain Father social support Father strain Mother social support Mother \train
C a r e - G i v i n g R e l a l i o t ~ s h i [ ~1989 s. Care provider

-. 152
,094"' ,000 ,000

Care-provider strain Hours of acute care provision Hours of chronic care provision /nferactions Female x child social support, 1989 Female x confidant, 1989
Vcilue of depenilenr vnrictble, 1986 Data presence indicators, 1989'

-.202** 094"'
-

2.862 -.737 -.003 -.008

.021 *
-

-. 1 17"
-

-6.1 15' ,407"'


-

Spouse relationship Child relationship Father relationship Mother relationship Constant R2 Number of cases

,346"' ,201* -.O 17 -.O 13 ,023 .3 19 ,375 2,867

,360"' ,215"' -.001


-

,404"' .-,435 -.33 1 .421 1.184 2.774 ,286 2,867

,151' ,377 2,867

5.589' ,287 2,867

h'ore: Standard errors are ava~lable from the authors.

"%larr~cd" is the omitted category. "Childless" is the omitted category. '"Nonmissing" is the omitted category. *** *P < .05 * * [ I 5 .ol [J 5 ,001 (two-tailed tests)

cause depression is a female-prevalent measure of psychological distress, we emphasized the need to consider a male-prevalent expression of distress-alcohol use. Previous research suggests that women are more emotionally reactive to relationships when emotional reactivity is measured in terms of depression (Aneshensel et al. 1991; Horwitz and Davies 1994). We find evidence for this only i n relationships with children over age 16. The quality of relationships with children in terms of support and strain has more im-

pact on depression among women than it does among men. This supports the hypothesis of women's greater sensitivity to strained relationships and corresponds to previous research suggesting that the parental role is more salient to the psychological well-being of women than of men (Scott and Alwin 1989; but see Simon 1992). However, we emphasize that men's and women's depression levels respond similarly to most of the relationship measures considered in this study.

AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

Although previous research on gender differences in psychological reactivity suggests that men are more sensitive to relationships when alcohol consumption is the indicator of psychological distress, this appeared to be the case for only two relationship measures: Informal social integration decreases men's probability of being nondrinkers (but not women's), and having a confidant is positively associated with alcohol consumption for men (but not women). Perhaps social contexts are more likely to facilitate drinking for men than for women. In several cases, relationship status affected women's alcohol use more strongly than men's: Social support from one's spouse and simply being married seemed to have more impact on women's alcohol use than it did on men's. In sum, we find little evidence that men's alcohol consumption levels are more responsive to relationship quality or that women's levels of depression are more responsive to relationship quality.

those relationships-protects them psychologically (also see Turner and Marino 1994). Mirowsky and Ross (1989) emphasize the social causes of psychological distress when explaining the high rates of depression among women. Relationships represent a social alleviation of psychological distress that affects the gender difference in depression in the opposite direction. In contrast, relationships have less influence on alcohol consumption than on depression, and relationships do not explain any of the gender difference in alcohol consumption.

Are There Gender Differences in the Long-Term Effects of Relationships?


The impact of ongoing relationships on current levels of psychological distress seems to be much stronger than the effects of relationships at one point in time on distress levels three years later. This suggests that ongoing relationships are usually more important to current psychological functioning than are past relationships, and that most relationship measures do not have long-term effects on psychological functioning. Of course, these results do not demonstrate that relationships have no long-term psychological consequences--only that the particular dimensions of relationships measured here are not significantly associated with subsequent psychological functioning. Although we control for current relationships when predicting the impact of past relationships on current psychological functioning, current relationships, in part, probably reflect past relationships. When there are long-term effects, we find that two of the social integration items are associated with subsequent depression levels. Furthermore, when relationship quality has long-term effects, it is for alcohol consumption rather than for depression. Most previous research has focused on relationship quality (especially social support) rather than on social integration in predicting depression. Future research should consider both social integration and relationship quality as important aspects of relationships that may affect psychological distress. Also, alcohol consumption should be considered in addition to depression as an indicator of distress. Finally, we find no gender differences in the long-term consequences of relationships.

Do Relationships Explain the Gender Differences in Depression and Alcohol Consumption?


We emphasize the lack of gender differences in the consequences of relationships for depression and alcohol consumption: All things being equal, supportive relationships seem to alleviate distress, and strained relationships seem to increase distress for women and men. But all things are not equal: We find clear gender differences in the quantity and quality of relationships and these differences influence men's and women's levels of psychological distress. For example, even if men and women are equally affected by supportive relationships with friends, women benefit more psychologically because the sheer amount of social support women receive from friends is higher than the amount that men receive from friends. Women's supportive relationships mitigate their distress, but women begin with much higher rates of depression than men. If women did not have the higher levels of support and integration that they have relative to men, they would exhibit even higher levels of depression relative to men than they currently do. Thus, women's greater involvement in certain types of relationships-especially the positive aspects of

GENDER AND RELATIONSHIPS

Theory on Gender, Relationships, and Psychological Functioning

Debra Umberson is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas, Austin. Her research focuses on structural determinants of psychological and physical health, genrler and relationships, and bereavertlent anrl the family. She is now writing a book on the impact of a pnrent's death on adult children andfamilies based on research supported by a FlRSTAwarrlfrotn the Ncitional lnslitute on Aging. She is also conducting research on genrler and domestic violence.

Sociological theory provides reasons to expect women to be more emotionally responsive than men to social relationships (Chodorow 1978; Gilligan 1982). We find little evidence that women are more emotionally sensitive than men to the quality of their relationships. However, we find that women's Meichu D. Chen is Research Affiliate wllh the greater involvement in positive relationships Population Research Center of the University of relative to men's is partly responsible for Texas, Austin. Her interests include social stratikeeping women's depression levels as low as fication, demography, and quantitative methods. they are. That is, without these positive relaJames S. House is Director of the Survey Retionships, women would be more depressed search Center anrl Professor of Sociology at the relative to men than they currently are. Re- University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His current sults strongly suggest that social structural research focuses on the role ofpsychosocialfacposition (as indicated by gender and other tors, especially socioeconoinic status, in the sociodemographic variables) influences the maintenance of health and effective functioning form and content of relationships. However, over the life course, including the reciprocal resocial structural position as defined by gen- lationship between health and paid work or other der does not appear .. to make women more productive activity. sensitive than men to their relationships: In Kristine Hopkins is a Ph. D. candidate in Sociolsimilar relationship conditions, men and ogy at the University of Texas, Austin. Her diswomen are affected similarly by those rela- sertation research focuses on reproductive decitionships. Future theoretical work on gender, sion-making in Brazil and explores wonlen's attirelationships, and psychological functioning tudes and experiences with surgical birth and contraception. must reconcile gender difference in the quantity and quality of relationships with gender Ellen Slaten received her Ph. D. fronz the Universimilarity i n psychological responses to the sity of Texas, Austin in 4'996 and is now Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas quantity and quality of relationships. The quest to identify gender differences Health Science Center in San Antonio. Her research focuses on AIDS caregivers. may sometimes impair our ability to accurately understand social phenomena: "The extent to which people attribute qualities and REFERENCES capacities to the two sexes is an example of Aneshensel, Carol S, and Leonard I . Pearlin. 1987. "Structural Contexts of Sex Differences how the concepts "male" and "female" cause in Stress." Pp. 75-95 in Gender and Stress, edthe sorting and skewing of perceptions of reited by R . C. Barnett, L. Biener, and G . K . ality by a focus on differences rather than Baruch. New York: Free Press. similarities" (Epstein 1988:12). We find that Aneshensel, Carol S., Carolyn M. Rutter, and Pemen and women are similar in their psychoter A. Lachenbruch. 1991. "Social Structure, logical reactions to the nature and quality of Stress, and Mental Health." American Sociotheir relationships, a finding that contradicts logical Review 56: 166-78. much sociological theory and suggests that Aquilino, William S. 1994. "Impact of Childhood much previous research on gender and relaFamily Disruption on Young Adults' Relationships with Parents." Journal of Marriage and tionships may have overemphasized gender the Family 56:295-3 13. differences. However, we find substantial gender differences in the form and content of Aseltine, Robert H. and Ronald C. Kessler. 1993. "Marital Disruption and Depression in a Comrelationships, which suggests that men and munity Sample." Journal of Health and Social women have different relationship experiBehavior 34:237-5 I . ences. It is important to recognize gender Baines, Carol, Patricia Evans, and Sheila differences arid gender similarities in order Neysmith, eds. 1991. Wornen's Caring: Femito integrate theory and research into a cohernist Perspectives on Social Welfare. Toronto, ent picture of "gendered" reality. Ontario: McClelland and Steward.

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