Very few respondents, however, met the criteria for alcohol(Drug information on alcohol) or drug abuse (two of the 97 men reached diagnostic criteria, and two women were just below this threshold) (Nazroo et al., 1998). Furthermore, it did not appear that the gender differences in depression were the result of men being more likely to externalize their anger. If anything, women reported both feeling and expressing more anger in response to the crises theyexperienced.
Our research suggested that these are not alternative gender-typed disorders developed in reaction to the same situation. Rather, such a pattern is likely to reflect responses to different life situations. Indeed, in the data presented by Meltzer et al. (1995), there is a strong suggestion that substance abuse is more frequent among young men and those who are single or separated, while gender differences in depression are at their greatest among those who are married (Bebbington, 1996).
How Important Are Gender Differences in Social Roles?
It has been argued that gender differences in social roles and in the experiences, stresses and expectations that surround them are heavily involved in women's greater risk for depression. To explore this possibility, we classified the crises experienced by the couples in this study according to the role domain in which they occurred (Nazroo et al., 1997, 1998).
Overall, women had an 80% greater risk of an episode of depression following a crisis (Nazroo et al., 1998). This risk was more than five times greater for women following crises involving children, housing and reproduction. There was no gender difference in risk for crises involving finances, work and the marital relationship (Figure 1).
The possibility that this difference was a consequence of gender differences in roles was tested further by directly assessing role differences. Measures of role involvement, responsibility and commitment were used to identify differences in both role behavior and aspiration (Nazroo et al., 1998).
As expected, women were much more likely to be involved in child care, housework and financial management, while men were more likely to be responsible for financial provision. In contrast, men appeared to be just as likely to be committed to the idea of parenthood and having a good home environment as women were.
We then hypothesized that the impact of an event would be dependent on its salience to role identities (Nazroo et al., 1997, 1998). So, using the assessments of role involvement, responsibility and commitment, the relative salience of crises involving children, housing or reproduction (i.e., those crises that produced a gender difference in outcome) to the role identities of the couple was directly estimated. We found that women did not have a greater risk of depression onset following crises that did not have a greater role salience for them, but had a 10-fold and significantly greater risk following those that did have a greater role salience for them (Nazroo, 1998) (Figure 2).
Our study suggested that even though both women and men experienced similar levels of stress, gender differences were present. The greater effect of particular crises on women was a result of their greater salience to women's role identities. This suggests that the role strain effect is a consequence of differential sensitivity to events, as a result of role differences, rather than women experiencing more events.
Some researchers have argued that the greater sensitivity of women to particular types of events is a consequence of socialization (Kessler and McLeod, 1984). We suggested that such a structural interpretation of a socialization effect is inadequate because it leaves little room for individual difference (Nazroo et al., 1998). Although most couples interviewed followed a stereotyped gender-based division of roles, a significant minority did not follow this pattern. This implies a need to include an understanding of context and individual agency when considering role identity. Importantly, it was current role identity that predicted relative risk of depression, rather than the global greater sensitivity of women to particular types of events, which would be expected to result from a direct socialization effect.