Feminist Forum

Sex Roles

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 149-164

First online:

Who Benefits from Pennebaker’s Expressive Writing Paradigm? Research Recommendations from Three Gender Theories

  • Lillian M. RangeAffiliated withOur Lady of Holy Cross College Email author 
  • , Sharon Rae JenkinsAffiliated withUniversity of North Texas

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Pennebaker’s experimental writing paradigm quantifies who, when, and how people benefit from writing about trauma, but researchers and meta-analyses thus far have rarely considered gender. Gender theories specify useful research strategies. Gender schema theory suggests examining gendered measurement biases, gender-relevant writing content, and whether traditional masculinity predicts benefits. Social role theory suggests assessing physician visits, disclosure history, and privacy as possible moderators of benefits. Socialization theory suggests assessing emotional approach coping, imagined readers, alexithymia, and whether mastery instructions influence benefits. All specify measuring functionally related gender constructs (gender schemas, gender roles, and socialization), asking whether gender proxies co-varying moderators and mediators of benefits, and examining possible linkages between benefits, trauma type, and disclosure. Help-seeking and somatization require integrated theoretical approaches.


Gender schema Gender role Gender socialization Expressive writing Pennebaker