Although several theoretical and methodological approaches have been developed for assessing the meaning of roles and role-related stressors, individuals' own understandings of the meaning of their role identities have been ignored in stress research. In this paper, I first examine the ways in which meaning has been conceptualized and assessed. I then explore the meanings individuals themselves attach to role identities and their implications for mental health. Qualitative analyses of indepth follow-up interviews with 40 people who had participated in a community panel study of mental health reveal considerable variation in the meanings they attach to spouse, parent, and worker identities. I also find that the meanings people assign to role identities are based on their perceptions of the benefits and costs of role involvement. Moreover, while most meanings are shared by men and women, there are gender differences in some meanings which reflect gender differences in the perceived benefits and costs of role involvement. Finally, quantitative analyses show that some meanings of role identities are associated with symptoms and are involved in gender differences in distress. These and other illustrative findings suggest that stress researchers would find it useful to incorporate the meanings individuals themselves attach to their role identities and devote greater attention to men's and women's perceptions of both the positive and negative aspects of their role involvement.