The studies of anorexia nervosa considered in the previous chapter indicate the way in which any adequate understanding of the impact of gender on the origins of mental disorder needs to locate differences in the psychological development of men and women within the context of the structural and cultural features of particular societies at particular moments in time. Socially generated male and female psychologies are linked both to gendered cultural requirements and to the gender division of labour. In this chapter I want to examine the features of the individual’s more immediate social situation which may be directly conducive to mental disturbance, and consider whether we can detect any clear gender differences in the influence of these situational features. I begin by examining the notion of stress since it provides the most popular conceptualisation of the link between present or recent situational factors and mental disorder. I then consider studies examining the relationship between the gender division of labour and mental disorder. I argue that the concept of stress has important drawbacks as a means of analysing the impact of situational features on psychological states, and it is better to examine specific situational features without grouping them together via some synthesising notion such as stress.
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