Gender diﬀerences in stress and coping styles
M. Pilar Matud
Facultad de Psicolog
ıa, Universidad de La Laguna, Campus de Guajara, 38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
Received 7 July 2003; received in revised form 24 November 2003; accepted 21 January 2004
Available online 11 March 2004
This study examines gender diﬀerences in stress and coping in a sample of 2816 people (1566 women and
1250 men) between 18 and 65 years old, with diﬀerent sociodemographic characteristics. The results of
MANCOVA, after adjusting for sociodemographic variables, indicated that the women scored signiﬁcantly
higher than the men in chronic stress and minor daily stressors. Although there was no diﬀerence in the
number of life events experienced in the previous two years, the women rated their life events as more
negative and less controllable than the men. Furthermore, we found gender diﬀerences in 14 of the 31 items
listed, with the women listing family and health-related events more frequently than the men, whereas the
men listed relationship, ﬁnance and work-related events. The women scored signiﬁcantly higher than the
men on the emotional and avoidance coping styles and lower on rational and detachment coping. The men
were found to have more emotional inhibition than the women. And the women scored signiﬁcantly higher
than the men on somatic symptoms and psychological distress. Although the eﬀect sizes are low, the results
of this study suggest that women suﬀer more stress than men and their coping style is more emotion-focused
than that of men.
Ó2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Gender; Chronic stress; Life events; Coping styles; Emotional inhibition
Studies consistently ﬁnd gender diﬀerences in certain measures of health, such as anxiety,
depression, and some physical illnesses (e.g. Barnett, Biener, & Baruch, 1987; Mirowsky & Ross,
1995; Cleary, 1987; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987; Weissman & Klerman, 1977). While the reason for
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Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415
this discrepancy is not clear, one of the contributing factors could be stress diﬀerences (Aneshensel
& Pearlin, 1987; Barnett et al., 1987; Baum & Grunberg, 1991; Billings & Moos, 1984; Mc-
Donough & Walters, 2001; Mirowsky & Ross, 1995; Turner, Wheaton, & Lloyd, 1995; We-
thington, McLeod, & Kessler, 1987).
Despite the many studies that have been done on the relationship between stress and health, the
nature of this relationship has not yet been clearly established. The correlations between life stress
and illness have been very modest, typically below 0.30 (Rabkin & Struening, 1976) and there is
little agreement over the deﬁnition and measure of these constructs. Some authors (i.e. Billings &
Moos, 1984; Pearlin, 1989; Pearlin & Schooler, 1978; Turner et al., 1995) assert that stressful
experiences are not limited to the realm of stressful life events, but also include the ongoing and
diﬃcult conditions of daily life, which some authors refer to as chronic stressors, or stressors that
tend to persist over long periods of time (Wheaton, 1983). It has also been found that there are
wide individual diﬀerences in both cognitive and physiological responses to stress, and the rela-
tionship between stress and health is inﬂuenced by a variety of moderator variables, including
personality, however ﬁndings have been inconclusive (Steptoe, 1983). Moreover, as Baruch, Bi-
ener, and Barnett (1987) argue, progress in this area has been limited by focusing more on males
and by neglecting gender as a variable.
Gender aﬀects each element in the stress process as much in the input, by determining whether a
situation will be perceived as stressful, as in the output, inﬂuencing coping responses and the
health implications of stress reactions (Barnett et al., 1987). Although the literature examining the
relation between gender and stress reveals several conﬂicting outcomes, numerous authors have
determined that women ﬁnd themselves in stressful circumstances more often than men (e.g.,
Almeida & Kessler, 1998; McDonough & Walters, 2001). Other authors have suggested that it is
possible that women appraise threatening events as more stressful than men do (Miller & Kirsch,
1987; Ptacek, Smith, & Zanas, 1992). Furthermore, women have been found to have more chronic
stress than men (McDonough & Walters, 2001; Turner et al., 1995; Nolen-Hoeksema, Larson, &
Grayson, 1999) and are exposed to more daily stress associated with their routine role functioning
(Kessler & McLeod, 1984). Women are also more likely to report home and family life events as
stressful (Oman & King, 2000) and stress related to gendered caring roles (Lee, 1999, 2001;
Walters, 1993). In addition, women experience gender-speciﬁc stressors such as gender violence
and sexist discrimination, which are associated with womenÕs physical and psychiatric events
(Heim et al., 2000; Klonoﬀ, Landrine, & Campbell, 2000; Koss, Koss, & Woodruﬀ, 1991; Lan-
drine, Klonoﬀ, Gibbs, Manning, & Lund, 1995). Women also were more aﬀected by the stress of
those around them, as they tend to be more emotionally involved than men in social and family
networks (Kessler & McLeod, 1984; Turner et al., 1995).
Social roles also seem relevant in the stressful life experiences of women and men (Aneshensel,
Frerichs, & Clark, 1981; Aneshensel & Pearlin, 1987; Cleary & Mechanic, 1983). Role occupancy
determines the range of potentially stressful experiences, increases the chance of exposure to some
stressors and precludes the presence of others. But as Aneshensel and Pearlin (1987) suggest, the
conditions people face once they occupy a role is a source of diﬀerential stress, since people may
have very diﬀerent experiences within the same role. Women and men diﬀer in the frequency of
their occupancy of social roles and in their experiences within similar social roles. WomenÕs po-
sition at work and in the family is less favorable since they carry a greater burden of demands and
limitations (Matthews, Hertzman, Ostry, & Power, 1998; Mirowsky & Ross, 1995).
1402 M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415
Coping has been deﬁned as the constantly changing cognitive and behavioral eﬀorts to manage
speciﬁc external and/or internal demands that have been evaluated as taking up or exceeding the
resources of the person (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Research recognizes two major functions of
coping: regulating stressful emotions, and altering the person–environment relation causing the
distress (Folkman, Lazarus, Dunkel-Schetter, Delongis, & Gruen, 1986). Problem-focused coping
includes cognitive and behavioral attempts to modify or eliminate the stressful situation. In
contrast, emotion-focused coping involves attempts to regulate emotional responses elicited by the
situation (Folkman & Lazarus, 1980). Researchers have suggested that emotion-focused coping is
less eﬀective and more likely to be associated with psychological distress than is problem-focused
coping (Billings & Moos, 1981, 1984; Pearlin & Schooler, 1978; Sigmon, Stanton, & Snyder,
Findings on studies of gender diﬀerences in coping behavior are not deﬁnitive. While Miller and
Kirsch (1987) acknowledge their methodological constraints and the fact that further research is
needed, they found that many studies report diﬀerences in how women and men cope with stress,
with men tending to deal with stress by problem-focused coping, while women tend to use
strategies that modify their emotional response, although these tendencies can change in certain
circumstances. For example, Ben-Zur and Zeidner (1996) have found that women tended to be
more active and problem-focused than men in their coping during the Gulf War crisis, whereas
men, compared to women, reported more emotion-focused coping. And this pattern of gender
diﬀerences was reversed for coping with daily stressors after the war.
Two main hypotheses have been put forth that account for gender diﬀerences in how indi-
viduals cope with stressful events: the socialization hypothesis and the role-constraint hypothesis
(Ptacek et al., 1992; Rosario, Shinn, Morch, & Huckabee, 1988). Several authors (i.e., Almeida &
Kessler, 1998; Barnett et al., 1987) have suggested that the impact of gender on the stress process
could be conditioned by traditional socialization patterns. The traditional female gender role
prescribes dependence, aﬃliation, emotional expressiveness, a lack of assertiveness, and the
subordination of oneÕs own needs to those of others. On the other hand, the traditional male role
prescribes attributes such as autonomy, self-conﬁdence, assertiveness, instrumentality and being
goal-oriented. These types of attributes would make it diﬃcult for men to accept and express
feelings of weakness, incompetence and fear, while for women it would be more diﬃcult to take a
proactive problem-solving stance. The stress associated with gender role identiﬁcation is diﬀerent
for each sex because women are more likely to identify with the feminine gender role, and men are
more likely to identify with the masculine gender role. By contrast, the role constraint hypothesis
argues that gender diﬀerences in coping may by explained by diﬀerences for men and women in
the likelihood of occupying particular social roles and the role-related resources and opportunities
(Rosario et al., 1988).
Recently some authors have criticized the psychological theories of coping with stress and have
recognized diﬀerences in psychological development between women and men. Also, there is
growing interest in studying womenÕs lives and the unique circumstances that they face (Banyard
& Graham-Bermann, 1993; Kayser & Sormanti, 2002; Kayser, Sormanti, & Strainchamps, 1999).
Other critics feel that there is not enough emphasis on the issue of power and how it may act as
mediator in the stress and coping process across gender. These critics recognize the inﬂuence of
social forces such as sexism and access to power as variables in the coping process, rather than
solely focusing on the individual (Banyard & Graham-Bermann, 1993). Given these socialization
M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415 1403
patterns and the relatively low status of women in most occupational situations, it is not sur-
prising that women, more often than men, perceive having inadequate resources for coping with a
threatening situation and also see a stressful situation as unchangeable, and tend to turn to others
This study was designed to explore gender diﬀerences in some stress process variables in a
broad sample of the general population. The questions we seek to address are: ﬁrst what are the
diﬀerences in stress between men and women and second what are the diﬀerences in coping styles
and emotional control between men and women.
This study analyses the responses of a convenience sample of 2816 people (1566 women and
1250 men) between 18 and 65 years old. The mean age for women was 34.3 (SD ¼11.8) and for
men it was 31.88 (SD ¼11.5). All participants were residents of the Canary Islands, Spain, a
homogeneous population of European ethnicity. In Table 1, we present the principal sociode-
mographic characteristics of both groups. As can be observed, there are representatives of all the
sociodemographic groups, and although the percentages are rather similar, the diﬀerences be-
tween women and men are signiﬁcant, perhaps because of the large sample size.
Life Event Stressful Success Questionnaire (LESSQ). Designed by Roger and Meadows, the
LESSQ is made up of 31 items indicating possible positive and negative life events and changes
experienced within the past two years. Answers also were scored according to two criteria: the
uncontrollability (the possibility of exercising control over the event) and the undesirability of the
event (how positive, neutral, or negative the event is considered to be). The uncontrollability score
given was ‘‘1’’ when the event was perceived as completely controllable, ‘‘2’’ when it was perceived
as partially controllable, and ‘‘3’’ for a completely uncontrollable event. The undesirability score
was ‘‘1’’ when the event was considered to be very positive, ‘‘2’’ if it was considered to be neutral,
and ‘‘3’’ when it was seen as very negative.
Chronic Stress Questionnaire (Matud, 1998). The Chronic Stress Questionnaire is an open-re-
sponse questionnaire in which participants give information about the relatively long-lasting
problems, conﬂicts, and threats that they currently face in their lives, evaluating the importance of
each on a 3-point scale from ‘‘1’’ (of little importance) to ‘‘3’’ (very important). The total score is
obtained by adding the responses given to each problem or conﬂict considered.
Minor Daily Stressor Questionnaire (Matud, 1998). This is an open-response questionnaire in
which participants give information about the more common everyday demands, irritations and
frustrations they currently were experiencing. Each was ranked on how much bother the sit-
uation caused, using a 3-point scale from ‘‘1’’ (of little importance) to ‘‘3’’ (very important).
The total score is obtained by adding the responses given to each demand or situation con-
1404 M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415
Work Role Satisfaction Inventory (WRS). This is an open-response inventory in which there are
ﬁve questions about the extent to which a person is satisﬁed with his/her current job (or with her
role as homemaker, if she does not work outside the home), whether he/she chose this role,
whether he/she would like to change it, and to what extent this role produces a sense of fulﬁllment
and self-satisfaction. Factor analysis of the answers scored according to a Likert-type answer scale
Demographic characteristics of the male and female groups
Characteristic Women (N¼1566) Men (N¼1250) v2value
Primary 452 28.9 299 23.9
Secondary 502 32.1 501 40.1
University 612 39.1 450 36.0
Homemaker 293 19 0 0
Skilled/unskilled manual 325 21 412 33.6
Skilled non-manual 292 18.9 308 25.1
Professional 357 23.1 260 21.2
Student 279 18 246 20.1
No data 20 24
Never married 737 47.4 781 62.9
Married/cohabiting 698 44.9 430 34.6
Divorced 87 5.6 28 2.3
Widowed 34 2.2 3 0.2
No data 10 8
18–24 426 27.3 415 33.5
25–39 595 38.2 526 42.5
40–54 450 28.9 233 18.8
55–65 87 5.6 65 5.2
No data 8 11
None 814 52.2 849 68.4
1 174 11.2 110 8.9
2 306 19.6 141 11.4
3 or more 266 17.1 141 11.4
No data 6 9
M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415 1405
with a range of 0–3, yielded a monofactorial solution. The coeﬃcient alpha was 0.74 and the
factor measures dissatisfaction with the work role (Matud, 1998).
Coping Styles Questionnaire (CSQ) (Roger, Jarvis, & Najarian, 1993). This scale, comprised of
48 items rated on a 4-point Likert scale ranging from ‘‘never’’ to ‘‘always’’, measures four factors
labelled: Rational Coping, Detached Coping, Emotional Coping, and Avoidance Coping. In the
questionnaire validation with a Spanish sample, separate analysis for the male and females sub-
samples resulted in comparable factor structures. The ﬁrst factor was Rational Coping, com-
prising 14 items with a coeﬃcient alpha of 0.83. The second was Emotional Coping, which
consisted of 13 items and also had a coeﬃcient alpha of 0.83. The third factor was Detached
Coping, which included 13 items and had a coeﬃcient alpha of 0.75. Avoidance Coping was the
fourth factor; it included 6 items with a coeﬃcient alpha of 0.63.
Emotion Control Questionnaire (ECQ) (Roger & Najarian, 1989; Roger & Nesshoever, 1987).
For this questionnaire, emotional control was deﬁned as the tendency to inhibit the expression of
emotional responses (Roger & Nesshoever, 1987). The scale was developed in the context of re-
search on the role of personality as a moderator variable in the relationship between stress and
illness. It contains 56 items, in which a factor-analytic study of cross-cultural diﬀerences found
that a two-factor model, comprising emotional inhibition and emotional rumination, oﬀered the
best ﬁt for the data across all samples (Roger, Garc
ıa de la Banda, Lee, & Olason, 2001). In this
sample validation, the rumination factor comprised 23 items, with a coeﬃcient alpha of 0.84; and
emotional inhibition comprised 10 items. The coeﬃcient alpha was 0.73.
General Health Checklist (GHC) (Meadows, 1989). We used the the General Health Checklist
to assess general health, as had Rector and Roger (1996). This scale consists of 25 items that
measure common physical complaints frequently made to general practitioners and also more
serious illnesses such as asthma or hypertension. It also includes three items measuring anxiety,
depression and insomnia. The scale is scored as follows: 1 ‘‘Better’’, 2 ‘‘Unchanged’’, 3 ‘‘Worse’’,
and 4 ‘‘DonÕt have/suﬀer from’’. Scores were derived by calculating the total frequency of
symptoms (scored from 1 to 3), and we came up with two scores: ‘‘frequency of somatic symp-
toms’’, derived by summing across all scale items excluding the three items that measure anxiety,
depression and insomnia; these were scored independently as a general measure of ‘‘psychological
The questionnaires were ﬁlled out individually, in some cases self-administered, and in the case
of participants with low educational levels, or with those who preferred to be interviewed, the
questionnaire was completed during the course of an interview carried out by trained personnel.
There were no signiﬁcant diﬀerences across gender in the method of administering the ques-
tionnaires. The sample was made up of volunteers and no monetary compensation was given. To
avoid systematic bias, the sample was obtained through various public and private work centers in
the Canary Islands (Spain) and through neighborhood associations. The participants had to fulﬁll
the following three requirements: (1) be between 18 and 65 years old; (2) if women, not be
pregnant; (3) not be in the terminal phase of an illness, nor convalescing from illness, nor
recovering from childbirth. The data presented in this work are drawn from a larger, ongoing
research project on gender stress and health which began in 1997.
1406 M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415
Multivariate and univariate analyses of covariance (MANCOVA) were performed to test for
gender diﬀerences in stress, health and coping variables. Adjustment was made for the sociode-
mographic variables that were diﬀerent for both groups: age, number of children, educational
level and occupation. Marital status was not included because it is highly associated with the
number of children. It was found that 98.1% of the single men and 95.5% of the single women had
The results of MANCOVA on the six stress variables (chronic stress, minor daily stressors,
work role dissatisfaction, uncontrollability, undesirability and number of life events) and two
health variables (somatic symptoms and psychological distress) revealed a signiﬁcant eﬀect,
Fð8;2623Þ¼15:2, p<0:001; g2¼0:044. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVAs, see Table 2)
indicated that the women scored signiﬁcantly higher than the men on chronic stress and minor
daily stressors, and rated life events experienced over the past two years as more negative and
uncontrollable than the men, but the eﬀect sizes are low. Furthermore, the women scored higher
than the men on somatic symptoms and psychological distress.
Although we did not ﬁnd gender diﬀerences in the number of life events experienced over the
past two years, we analyzed each event to study whether the stressors listed by men and women
were diﬀerent. We found signiﬁcant diﬀerences in 14 of 31 items. The women listed more fre-
quently than the men ‘‘Separation/divorce’’ (4.4% of women and 2.3% of men), ‘‘Change in
church-going or religious beliefs’’ (10% of women and 7.5% of men), ‘‘Death in immediate
family’’ (30.7% of women and 27% of men), ‘‘Birth in family’’ (27.7% of women and 20.1% of
men), ‘‘Serious illness in close friend or relation’’ (18.1% of women and 14% of men). And men
more frequently listed ‘‘Engagement’’ ( 21.6% of men and 14.8% of women), ‘‘Starting serious
relationship (not marriage)’’ (25% of men and 17.8% of women), ‘‘Ending serious relationship
(not marriage)’’ (23.8% of men and 11.2% of women), ‘‘Making new friends’’ (57.3% of men and
52.7% of women), ‘‘Major change in ﬁnancial status’’ (37% of men and 30.6% of women),
‘‘Change in commitment to work’’ (35.3% of men and 27.5% of women), ‘‘Dealings with staﬀ/
Means, standard deviations and Fvalues for stress and health measures
Women Men Fg2
Chronic stress 6.60 5.03 5.87 4.49 11.92 0.005
Minor daily stressors 7.35 5.18 5.95 4.67 52.04 0.019
Work role dissatisfaction 6.05 3.83 5.70 3.84 2.05 0.001
Number of life events 5.88 3.92 6.30 3.96 0.34 0.000
Undesirability of life events 1.86 0.53 1.77 0.48 5.850.002
Uncontrollability of life events 1.92 0.53 1.83 0.47 10.80 0.004
Somatic symptoms 20.3 11.1 18.8 12.1 12.58 0.005
Psychological distress 3.21 2.71 2.30 2.45 65.89 0.024
M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415 1407
supervisor’’ (19.2% of men and 15.1% of women), ‘‘Change in work pressure’’ (29.4% of men and
22.6% of women), ‘‘Increase/decrease in workload’’ (30.7% of men and 25.2% of women).
The MANCOVA examining gender diﬀerences in coping styles and emotional control variables
also revealed a signiﬁcant eﬀect, Fð6;2729Þ¼63:3, p<0:001; g2¼0:122. Univariate analyses (see
Table 3) showed that the women scored higher than the men on emotional and avoidance coping
style, and the men scored higher on rational and detachment coping and on emotional inhibition.
Correlation coeﬃcients were computed between study variables for women and men (see Table
4). To prevent the occurrence of type I errors due to multiple comparisons, the alpha level was
lowered to p60:001. Most of the coeﬃcients between diﬀerent stress measures were low in
magnitude, showing that life events, chronic stress, minor daily stressors and work role dissat-
isfaction are not overlapping measures. Generally they were similar for women and men, although
chronic stress is associated with life events rated as uncontrollable and negative more frequently
by women than men, work role dissatisfaction is signiﬁcantly associated with the number of life
events only for men, and with number of children only in women, although the percentage of
variance is very low. For women, educational level is more associated with the number of negative
life events, with work role dissatisfaction, with age, and with number of children.
For both men and women, the number of life events correlated positively with chronic stress,
with minor daily stressors and with educational level, and negatively with age and number of
children. Life events rated as negative and uncontrollable correlated with work role dissatisfac-
tion, with age and number of children. Chronic stress is associated with minor daily stressors and,
with a lower correlation coeﬃcient, with work role dissatisfaction. Age and number of children
are highly correlated.
Although the coeﬃcients were low in all cases, most of the stress measures were more highly
correlated with the health measures among the women than among the men. Moreover some of
the correlations between coping styles and demographic variables were diﬀerent for the women
and the men. While rational coping correlated signiﬁcantly in the menÕs sample with age and
number of children, in the womenÕs sample avoidance coping correlated with these variables,
although rational coping also correlated with age in the women. Educational level was found
to be more associated with age and number of children in the womenÕs sample than in the
Means, standard deviations and Fvalues for coping styles and emotional control variables
Women Men Fg2
Rational 23.15 6.21 25.06 6.14 72.05 0.026
Emotional 13.19 6.25 11.55 5.69 41.60 0.015
Detachment 10.61 4.64 11.61 4.86 32.13 0.012
Avoidance 10.09 3.11 9.02 3.19 58.53 0.021
Emotional inhibition 3.73 2.48 4.72 2.61 108.7 0.038
Rumination 9.93 5.16 9.82 4.99 0.06 0.000
1408 M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415
Correlations between measures for women and men
1. Number of life
)0.08)0.04 0.260.200.03 0.200.17)0.02 0.11)0.01 0.01 )0.08 0.06 )0.32)0.240.16
of life events
– 0.590.16)0.02 0.140.02 0.19)0.100.220.03 )0.01 0.08 0.160.270.23)0.11
bility of life
– 0.160.01 0.150.04 0.17)0.110.210.03 )0.01 0.080.180.190.16)0.07
4. Chronic stress – 0.4188.8.131.52)0.06 0.22)0.04 0.01 0.02 0.13)0.01 0.05 0.04
5. Minor daily
– 0.08 0.100.140.06 0.10)0.07 0.04 )0.05 0.09)0.07 )0.02 0.05
6. Work role
– 0.120.20)0.080.24)0.07 0.02 0.01 0.190.07 0.11)0.20
– 0.49)0.120.21)0.02 )0.03 0.04 0.15)0.15)0.08 0.08
–)0.140.38)0.04 )0.01 0.07 0.230.090.11)0.03
–)0.270.300.32)0.06 )0.200.110.07 0.03
–)0.02 0.130.220.51)0.01 0.03 )0.12
– 0.310.09)0.08 0.080.04 )0.10
– 0.01 0.07 0.140.15)0.21
– 0.02 0.06 0.05 )0.07
14. Rumination – )0.02 0.03 )0.19
15. Age – 0.76)0.39
16. Number of
M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415 1409
Table 4 (continued)
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1011121314151617
1. Number of life
)0.05 0.01 0.250.210.100.110.11)0.02 0.08 0.00 0.07 0.01 0.10)0.28)0.240.10
of life events
– 0.550.04 )0.04 0.130.05 0.130.00 0.170.03 )0.02 0.03 0.110.230.21)0.06
bility of life
– 0.110.05 0.160.08 0.15)0.05 0.20)0.01 0.01 0.06 0.130.120.12)0.02
4. Chronic stress – 0.4184.108.40.206)0.01 0.17)0.04 0.05 0.03 0.11)0.07 )0.07 0.07
5. Minor daily
– 0.090.06 0.07 0.00 0.10)0.06 0.07 0.02 0.13)0.11)0.08 0.03
6. Work role
– 0.150.18)0.110.20)0.01 0.01 0.090.11)0.06 )0.05 )0.14
– 0.57)0.110.200.01 )0.02 0.04 0.10)0.05 )0.06 0.02
–)0.110.32)0.02 0.03 0.06 0.180.03 0.01 0.04
– 0.120.230.220.47)0.05 )0.04 )0.10
– 0.310.11)0.07 0.08 0.04 )0.03
–)0.03 0.110.08 0.07 )0.15
– 0.05 0.00 0.00 )0.02
14. Rumination )0.04 )0.03 )0.19
15. Age – 0.80)0.12
16. Number of
1410 M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415
Even though the magnitude of the diﬀerences between women and men is small and the per-
centage of variance explained is low, we have found signiﬁcant diﬀerences in several stress-related
variables. Women have more daily stress, with more chronic problems and conﬂicts and daily
demands and frustrations. Although women and men did not diﬀer in the number of life events
and changes experienced within the past two years, these events seemed to impact women more
since they rated them as less desirable and controllable than men did and they were more asso-
ciated with health problems. We also found that nearly half of the stressful events listed by women
and men were signiﬁcantly diﬀerent, with women more frequently reporting family and health-
related events experienced by other people in their environment. The men more frequently re-
ported events related to work and ﬁnances and relationships with friends and lovers. Even though
the intercorrelations between stress measures and sociodemographic variables were quite similar
for women and men and the percentage of variance explained was low, we found that work role
dissatisfaction is associated with the number of life events only for men, and chronic stress is
associated with life events which were rated as negative only for women. We also found that
educational level was somewhat related to stress in women, those with a higher educational level
experienced less work role dissatisfaction and although they experienced more life events, they
classiﬁed them as less negative. Women with more children had greater work role dissatisfaction
and experienced more psychological distress, although this association is low.
These ﬁndings of gender diﬀerences in stress are consistent with many previous investigations.
Even though some reports of diﬀerences in the incidence of stressful life events across gender are
inconsistent (Thoits, 1982), other authors (e.g. Almeida & Kessler, 1998; Nolen-Hoeksema et al.,
1999; Stein & Nyamathi, 1999; Turner et al., 1995) found that women reported more stress than
men when taking into account the estimates of stress exposure, the enduring nature of some role-
related stressors and other long-term chronic and daily stressors.
Other questions posed in this study deal with gender diﬀerences in coping styles. We found that
women scored signiﬁcantly higher than men in emotional and avoidance coping styles, while
scoring lower in rational and detachment coping styles. Although the magnitude of diﬀerences is
moderate to small, several investigators have found that men made more frequent use of
instrumental coping and women were more likely to use emotion-focused coping (Billings &
Moos, 1984; Endler & Parker, 1990; Folkman & Lazarus, 1980; Ptacek, Smith, & Dodge, 1994).
Several authors have also found that women made more frequent use of emotional-discharge
coping than men in community groups (Billings & Moos, 1981; Pearlin & Schooler, 1978), and
depressed men (Billings & Moos, 1984).
The gender diﬀerences found seem to be consistent with the socialization hypothesis which
predicts that men are socialized to use more active and instrumental coping behaviors, and women
are socialized to use more passive and emotion-focused behaviors (Pearlin & Schooler, 1978;
Ptacek et al., 1992). But gender diﬀerences in coping also can be explained by variations in the
kind of situations that men and women typically encounter. Several studies in community samples
have found that women experienced more stressful events associated with health and family,
whereas men report more stressful events associated with work and ﬁnance (Billings & Moos,
1984; Folkman & Lazarus, 1980). Furthermore, women and men are exposed to diﬀerent stressors
as a result of the diﬀerent jobs that they perform, and women experience sexist stressors such as
M.P. Matud / Personality and Individual Diﬀerences 37 (2004) 1401–1415 1411
discrimination, battering, rape, and sexual harassment (Klonoﬀ et al., 2000; Heim et al., 2000). All
of this may mean that diﬀerent coping strategies are needed (Banyard & Graham-Bermann, 1993).
However, as Felsten (1998) points out, gender diﬀerences in the use of coping strategies may be
decreasing and becoming less consistent over the past two decades, and this may parallel social
changes in gender roles and constraints, since the context may account for some of the observed
gender diﬀerences (Emslie et al., 2002). For example, some studies have found that gender dif-
ferences in coping diminish or disappear when the studies were done on homogeneous samples of
university students (Felsten, 1998; Lengua & Stormshak, 2000; Sigmon et al., 1995; Stern, Nor-
man, & Komm, 1993), although the results vary according to the type of strategy used (problem-
focused coping versus emotion-coping strategies). Perhaps these social changes explained the
small eﬀect of gender diﬀerences in this study. Likewise, the small eﬀect sizes that we have found in
our study support the view that gender diﬀerences in stress and coping may be decreasing over
The present study has several limitations. The ﬁrst limitation is that the self-reported nature of
our data does not allow us to determine the possibility that men and women diﬀered only in
what they were willing to report. A second limitation was that some responses were retrospective.
Third, the use of a convenience sample limits the generalization of the ﬁndings. Even so, the
large size and diversity of the sample guarantees a certain generalization of the results. Finally,
the design of the study is cross-sectional and did not allow for the evaluation of causal rela-
In spite of these limitations, the results of this study suggest that women have more stress
compared to men, although these diﬀerences are small. The diﬀerences include more chronic stress
and more minor daily stressors. For women, life events and changes seen to be less controllable
and more negative. In addition, the womenÕs coping style is more emotion-focused and less
problem-centered than that of the men. Perhaps because of this, the women suﬀer more somatic
symptoms and psychological distress than the men. We have concluded, therefore, that helping
women to achieve a greater sense of control over their circumstances and to engage in problem
solving rather than emotionality when dealing with stressors, as well as changing the social cir-
cumstances that cause these reactions, would be useful.
This research was supported by grants from the WomenÕs Institute and from the Consejer
on, Cultura y Deportes of the Canary Islands. The author would also like to thank the
reviewers for their helpful comments.
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