Parental role strains, salience of parental identity and gender differences in psychological distress

J Health Soc Behav. 1992 Mar;33(1):25-35.


Although past research indicates that women's higher levels of psychological distress can be accounted for by their greater exposure and vulnerability to role-related stress, the social psychological factors contributing to female vulnerability have not been fully identified. This paper applies identity theory to the phenomenon of gender differences in distress among parents. From an identity perspective, I propose that salience of the parental identity in women's self-conceptions contributes to their vulnerability to parental role strains. Using 1988 survey data from a stratified random sample of married and divorced Indianapolis residents (N = 448), I find that gender differences in distress are explained by differences in exposure to parental role strains. Further analyses reveal, however, that salience of the parental identity contributes to both men's and women's vulnerability to parental role strains. These findings underscore the utility of identity theory for explaining psychological distress among women and men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Identification
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*