The effects of women's employment: personal control and sex differences in mental health

J Health Soc Behav. 1989 Mar;30(1):77-91.


Married women have been found consistently to have higher rates of anxious and depressive symptoms than married men. Power explanations for this difference predict that employment for women, which is associated with greater power in the family, would reduce women's symptoms to approximate men's more closely. Results on the effects of women's employment, however, are inconsistent. One explanation for this inconsistency concerns role overload, or the greater demands experienced by women with employment. This paper proposes that overload creates greater symptoms for the same reason as low power; that is, through lowering individuals' sense of personal control. Thus employment for women is not consistently positive because it often trades one source of low control for another. We test a personal control explanation for the effects of women's employment, using community surveys of mental health. Results indicate that issues of personal control underlie the effects of both high demands and low power on sex differences in anxious and depressive symptoms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Power, Psychological
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Control, Informal
  • Women / psychology*
  • Women, Working / psychology*