Sex Roles

, Volume 53, Issue 5–6, pp 401–411 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Self-Reports of Depression: The Response Bias Hypothesis Revisited

  • Sandra T. Sigmon
  • Jennifer J. Pells
  • Nina E. Boulard
  • Stacy Whitcomb-Smith
  • Teresa M. Edenfield
  • Barbara A. Hermann
  • Stephanie M. LaMattina
  • Janell G. Schartel
  • Elizabeth Kubik
Article

Abstract

This study was designed to revisit the response bias hypothesis, which posits that gender differences in depression prevalence rates may reflect a tendency for men to underreport depressive symptoms. In this study, we examined aspects of gender role socialization (gender-related traits, socially desirable responding, beliefs about mental health and depression) that may contribute to a response bias in self-reports of depression. In addition, we investigated the impact of two contextual variables (i.e., cause of depression and level of intrusiveness of experimental follow-up) on self-reports of depressive symptoms. Results indicated that men, but not women, reported fewer depressive symptoms when consent forms indicated that a more involved follow-up might occur. Further, results indicated differential responding by men and women on measures of gender-related traits, mental health beliefs, and beliefs about depression and predictors of depressed mood. Together, our results support the assertion that, in specific contexts, a response bias explanation warrants further consideration in investigations of gender differences in rates of self-reported depression.

Keywords

response bias depression self-report gender differences in depression artifact hypothesis 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Abramson, L. Y., Seligman, M. E. P., & Teasdale, J. D. (1978). Learned helplessness in humans: Critique and reformulation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 87, 49–74.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Barrett, L. F., Robin, L., Pietromonaco, P. R., & Eyssell, K. M. (1998). Are women the ‘more emotional’ sex? Evidence from emotional experience in social context. Cognition and Emotion, 12, 555–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Brown, G. K. (1996). Beck Depression Inventory (2nd ed.). San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  4. Bem, S. L. (1981). Gender schema theory: A cognitive type of sex typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berman, P. W. (1980). Are women more responsive than men to the young? A review of developmental and situational variables. Psychological Bulletin, 88, 668–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bonebright, T. L., Thompson, J. L., & Leger, D. W. (1996). Gender stereotypes in the expression and perception of vocal affect. Sex Roles, 34, 429–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brody, L. R. (2000). The socialization of gender differences in emotional expression: Display rules, infant temperament, and differentiation. In A. Fischer (Ed.), Gender and emotion: Social psychological perspectives (pp. 24–47). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brody, L. R., & Hall, J. A. (1993). Gender and emotion. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (pp. 447–460). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  9. Brody, L. R., & Hall, J. A. (2000). Gender, emotion, and expression. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (2nd ed., pp. 338–349). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  10. Broverman, I., Vogel, S., Broverman, D., Clarkson, F. E., & Rosenkrantz, P. S. (1972). Gender-role stereotypes: A current appraisal. Journal of Social Issues, 28, 59–78.Google Scholar
  11. Bryson, S. E., & Pilon, D. J. (1984). Gender differences in depression and the method of administering the Beck Depression Inventory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40, 529–534.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Chevron, E. S., Quinlan, D. M., & Blatt, S. J. (1978). Gender roles and gender differences in the experience of depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 87, 680–683.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Clancy, K., & Gove, W. (1974). Gender differences in mental illness: An analysis of response bias in self-reports. American Journal of Sociology, 80, 205–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Conway, M. (2000). On sex roles and representations of emotional experience: Masculinity, femininity, and emotional awareness. Sex Roles, 43, 687–698.Google Scholar
  15. Fabes, R., & Martin, C. (1991). Gender and age stereotypes of emotionality. Social Psychology Bulletin, 17, 532–540.Google Scholar
  16. Fischer, A. H. (1993). Sex differences in emotionality: Fact or stereotype? Feminism and Psychology, 3, 303–318.Google Scholar
  17. Fischer, A. H., & Manstead, A. S. R. (2000). The relation between gender and emotions in different cultures. In A. Fischer (Ed.), Gender and emotion: Social psychological perspectives (pp. 71–94). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  19. Gladstone, T., & Koenig, L. J. (1994). Sex differences in depression across the high school to college transition. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 23, 643–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Golding, J. M. (1988). Gender differences in depressive symptoms. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 12, 61–74.Google Scholar
  21. Grant, K., Marsh, P., Syniar, G., Williams, M., Addlesperger, E., Kinzler, M. H., et al. (2002). Gender differences in rates of depression among undergraduates: Measurement matters. Journal of Adolescence, 25, 613–617.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Hammen, C. L., & Peters, S. D. (1977). Differential responses to male and female depressive reactions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 45, 994–1001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hankin, B., & Abramson, L. Y. (2002). Measuring cognitive vulnerability to depression in adolescence: Reliability, validity, and gender differences. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 31(4), 491–504.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Helmreich, R. L., Spence, J. T., & Wilhelm, J. A. (1981). A psychometric analysis of the Personal Attributes Questionnaire. Sex Roles, 7, 1097–1108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jakupcak, M., Salters, K., Gratz, K. L., & Roemer, L. (2003). Masculinity and emotionality: An investigation of men's primary and secondary emotional responding. Sex Roles, 49, 111–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kelly, J. R., & Hutson-Comeaux, S. L. (1999). Gender-emotion stereotypes are context specific. Sex Roles, 40, 107–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. King, D. A., & Buchwald, A. M. (1982). Gender differences in subclinical depression: Administration of the Beck Depression Inventory in public and private disclosure situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 963–969.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Madden, T. E., Barrett, L. F., & Pietromonaco, P. R. (2000). Sex differences in anxiety and depression: Empirical evidence and methodological questions. In A. Fischer (Ed.), Gender and emotion: Social psychological perspectives (pp. 277–298). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Malik, K. (2000). Culture and emotions: Depression among Pakistanis. In C. Squire (Ed.), Culture in psychology (pp. 147–162). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Miller, J. B. (1976). Toward a new psychology of women. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  31. Mitchell, J. (1974). Psychoanalysis and feminism. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  32. Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1987). Gender differences in unipolar depression: Evidence and theory. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 259–282.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Morrow, J. (1993). Effects of rumination and distraction on naturally-occurring depressed mood. Cognition and Emotion, 7, 561–570.Google Scholar
  34. Padesky, C. A., & Hammen, C. (1977). Help-seeking for depression: Gender differences in college students. Unpublished manuscript, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  35. Philips, D. L., & Segal, B. E. (1969). General status and psychiatric symptoms. American Sociological Review, 34, 58–72.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Plant, E. A., Hyde, J. S., Keltner, D., & Devine, P. G. (2000). The gender stereotyping of emotions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 81–92.Google Scholar
  37. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D: A self report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 3, 385–401.Google Scholar
  38. Robinson, M. D., Johnson, J. T., & Shields, S. A. (1998). The gender heuristic and the data base: Factors affecting the perception of gender-related differences in the experience and display of emotions. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 20, 206–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rosenkrantz, P., Vogel, S., Bee, H., Broverman, I., & Broverman, D. (1968). Gender-role stereotypes and self-concepts in college students. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 32, 287–295.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Rubinow, D. R., & Roy-Byrne, P. (1984). Premenstrual syndromes: Overview from a methodologic perspective. American Journal of Psychiatry, 141, 163–172.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Salokangas, R. K. R., Vaahtera, K., Pacriev, S., Sohlman, B., & Lehtinen, V. (2002). Gender differences in depressive symptoms: An artifact caused by measurement instruments? Journal of Affective Disorders, 68, 215–220.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Shields, S. A. (1984). Distinguishing between emotion and nonemotion: Judgments about experience. Motivation and Emotion, 8, 355–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shields, S. A. (1987). Women, men, and the dilemma of emotion. In P. Shaver & C. Hendrick (Eds.), Sex and gender: Review of personality and social psychology (Vol. 7, pp. 229–250). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. Shields, S. A. (1991). Gender in the psychology of emotion: A selective review. In K. T. Strongman (Ed.), International review of studies on emotion (pp. 227–247). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  45. Shields, S. A. (1995). The role of emotion beliefs and values in gender development. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology (Vol. 15, pp. 212–232). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  46. Shields, S. A. (2000). Thinking about gender, thinking about theory: Gender and emotional experience. In A. Fischer (Ed.), Gender and emotion: Social psychological perspectives (pp. 3–23). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Sigmon, S. T., Kendrew, J., Whitcomb-Smith, S., Boulard, N., Edenfield, T., & Kubik, E. (2003). The development and validation of the Mental Health Attitudes Scale. Unpublished manuscript, University of Maine, Orono.Google Scholar
  48. Sigmon, S. T., Rohan, K., Dorhofer, D., Hotovy, L., Trask, P., & Boulard, N. (1997). Effects of consent form information on self-disclosure. Ethics and Behavior, 7, 299–310.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Spence, J. T., & Buckner, C. E. (2000). Instrumental and expressive traits, trait stereotypes, and sexist attitudes: What do they signify? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 44–62.Google Scholar
  50. Spence, J. T., Helmreich, R. L., & Stapp, J. (1974). The Personal Attributes Questionnaire: A measure of gender-role stereotypes and masculinity–femininity. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 4, 43.Google Scholar
  51. Sprock, J., & Yoder, C. Y. (1997). Women and depression: An update on the report of the APA task force. Sex Roles, 36, 269–303.Google Scholar
  52. Stanton, A. L., Burker, E. J., & Kershaw, D. (1991). Effects of researcher follow-up of distressed subjects: Tradeoff between validity and ethical responsibility? Ethics and Behavior, 1, 105–112.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Twenge, J. M. (1997). Changes in masculine and feminine scores across time: A meta-analysis. Sex Roles, 36, 305–325.Google Scholar
  54. Veit, C., & Ware, J. E. (1983). The structure of psychological distress and well-being in general populations. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 730–742.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Weissman, M. M., & Klerman, G. L. (1977). Gender differences and the epidemiology of depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 34, 98–111.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra T. Sigmon
    • 1
  • Jennifer J. Pells
    • 1
  • Nina E. Boulard
    • 1
  • Stacy Whitcomb-Smith
    • 1
  • Teresa M. Edenfield
    • 1
  • Barbara A. Hermann
    • 1
  • Stephanie M. LaMattina
    • 1
  • Janell G. Schartel
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Kubik
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MaineOrono

Personalised recommendations