Date of Award

Spring 1998

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Heather Turner


This study examines the influence of gender and several personality characteristics in the stress process using a cross-sectional study of 443 university students from a mid-size public New England university, a New England Catholic college, and a mid-size private Florida university. Three models are tested to consider the direct, mediating, and moderating effects of gender and personality on the stress outcomes of drug/alcohol use; non-substance deviant behavior; and depressive symptomatology.

Model 1 tests the antecedent effects of gender and personality to determine their influence on stress outcomes. The main effect of gender explained the largest portion of variance for drug/alcohol use and deviance with men reporting higher prevalence in both outcomes. Self esteem is found to be negatively related to drug/alcohol use and sense of coherence and authoritarianism are negatively related to deviance. Gender is significantly related to depressive symptomatology with women suffering more with this outcome.

Model 2 uses hierarchical regression to test the mediating effects of personality and stressors in the gender-outcome relationship. For the three outcomes tested, gender emerged as the strongest predictor, and the addition of personality and stress variables failed to explain away the sex differences. Personality and stress explain a portion of the sex difference for depressive symptomatology, however the sex difference remained significant. Self esteem and extraversion are significant personality factors mediating between gender and alcohol/drug use; sense of coherence and extraversion are significant personality factors mediating between gender and deviant behavior; and self esteem, neuroticism, mastery, and sense of coherence are significant personality factors mediating between gender and depressive symptomatology. Life events stress is a significant mediating factor in all three outcomes and ongoing problems is a significant factor in alcohol/drug use and depressive symptomatology.

In Model 3 a significant interaction is found between gender and life events stress on alcohol/drug use, with men being effected more at higher levels of stress. The only significant personality-stress interaction is between masculinity and life events on alcohol/drug use with those high in masculinity being affected more at higher levels of stress. Two significant interactions were observed between personality variables and ongoing problems on depressive symptomatology. Those low in masculinity suffer more depressive symptoms as ongoing problems increase. There is a similar finding with the interaction between self esteem and ongoing problems on depressive symptomatology with those low in self esteem more greatly affected.

Because of the mostly premarital and preoccupational character of the sample, differences structured into early sex-role socialization and current structures in the world of young college students emerge as the best explanations for the gender differences found in this study.