Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Sex-role orientation and depressive symptomatology

  • 52 Accesses

  • 21 Citations


The incidence of depressive disorders among women in our society is considerably higher than it is for men. Several investigators have suggested that this is due to traditional sex roles and status of women. One way in which this might work is suggested by Seligman's learned helplessness model of depression. Such considerations have led to the present attempt to evaluate the relationships of gender, sex roles, and depression. Forty male and 40 female subjects, recruited from graduate education courses, were given the NIMH-CES Depression Scale and the Bem Sex-Role Inventory. Analysis of covariance for males suggested that Bem M-Scale scores significantly predict depression, higher M scores associated with lower depression scores. For females, both M scores and M × F interaction predicted depression, higher F and lower M scores associated with greater depression. No differences were found between male and female subjects in depression scale scores. Thus, sex role appears a more potent predictor of depression than gender.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bem, S. L. The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1974, 42, 155–162.

  2. Bernard, J. The future of marriage. New York: Benton, 1973.

  3. Chesler, P. Women and madness. New York: Avon Books, 1972.

  4. Goldberg, S., & Lewis, M. Play behavior in the year old infant: Early sex differences. Child Development, 1969, 40, 21–31.

  5. Gove, W. R., & Tudor, J. F. Adult sex roles and mental illness. American Journal of Sociology, 1973, 78, 812–835.

  6. Radloff, L. S. Sex differences in depression: The effects of occupation and marital status. Sex Roles, 1975, 1, 249–265.

  7. Radloff, L. S. The CES-D scale: A self report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1977, 1, 385–401.

  8. Radloff, L. S. & Monroe, M. K. Sex differences in helplessness — with implications for depression. In L. S. Hanson & R. S. Raposa (Eds.), Career development and counseling of women. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1979.

  9. Seligman, M. E. P. Depression and learned helplessness. In R. J. Friedman & M. M. Katz (Eds.), The psychology of depression: Contemporary theory and research. Washington, D.C.: W. H. Winston & Sons, 1974.

  10. Serbin, L. A., O'Leary, K. D., Kent, R. N., & Tonick, I. J. A comparison of teacher response to the preacademic and problem behavior of boys and girls. Child Development, 1973, 44, 796–804.

  11. Weissman, M. M. Depressed women: Traditional and non-traditional therapies. In J. L. Claghorn (Ed.), Successful psychotherapy. New York: Bruner/Mazel, 1976.

  12. Weissman, M. M., & Klerman, G. L. Sex differences in the epidemiology of depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 1977, 34, 98–111.

  13. Weissman, M. M., Sholomskas, D., Pottenger, M., Pruskoff, B. A., & Locke, B. Z. Assessing depressive symptoms in 5 psychiatric populations: A validation study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1977, 106, 203–214.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Stephen A. Karp.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Elpern, S., Karp, S.A. Sex-role orientation and depressive symptomatology. Sex Roles 10, 987–992 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00288519

Download citation


  • Depression
  • Covariance
  • Depressive Disorder
  • Depression Scale
  • Female Subject