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Case Reports
, 46 (1), 23-36

Gender Bias in Families and Its Clinical Implications for Women

Case Reports

Gender Bias in Families and Its Clinical Implications for Women

N C Atwood. Soc Work.


Within the framework of feminist theory, this clinical study of 45 women with brothers explores family-based gender bias and elucidates its role in the lives of women. Bias is conceptualized along three dimensions: (1) devaluation--the woman perceives that she was less valued by her parents than a brother; (2) abuse without redress--the woman reports that she was abused by a brother and perceived herself as unable to get redress from her parents; and (3) deprivation--the woman perceives herself to have been deprived of resources or privileges that a brother had. The author identifies several legacies from the girlhood experience of gender bias that may be associated with depression in women: involvement in demeaning intimate relationships; self-doubt about competence in comparison with males; an isolating distrust of relationships; and the sacrifice of personal and relational development to serve parents and compensate for problematic brothers. Components of treatment are the therapist's self-awareness of internalized sexism; the questioning of client beliefs, based on sexist assumptions, that devalue women; and expanding women's perceived range of choice for improving their lives.

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