Gender differences in marital support following a shared life event

Soc Sci Med. 1998 Apr;46(8):1077-85. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(97)10039-9.


Previous work has established that women with good marriages are less at risk of depression of clinical severity following a crisis than women in poor quality relationships. Evidence for such protectiveness is less clear for men. The paper examines the relationship between marital quality, onset of depression, and gender following a severely threatening life event. The results show that good quality of marriage related to lower rates of depression for both men and women, although the overall rate for women was higher. For women with a good marital relationship, but for whom support from partner was not forthcoming at the time of the crisis (i.e. the person was "let down"), risk was increased, confirming a result from a study in Islington. The current study shows that the same set of findings holds for men. Gender differences did emerge when the subjective need for support within the marital relationship is taken into account, with women expressing greater need. However, such a desire for support was not necessarily translated into support-seeking behaviour as in a poor relationship turning to a partner was frequently inopportune. Women were also more likely to seek support outside the marriage; as in the earlier Islington research this was related to a lower risk of depression for those in a poor relationship. An unexpected finding was that men who received support outside marriage had an increased risk of depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • London
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Spouses / psychology*