Gender, the assertion of autonomy, and the stress process in young adulthood


Using data from a study of young adults in south Florida, I apply the "stress process model" to investigating relationships between gender, stressful events, the assertion of autonomy, and two outcomes: depression and criminal behavior. As in prior research, findings suggest that women average higher depression, men average higher criminal behavior, and exposure to stressful events increases risk for both outcomes. Gender differences in outcomes, however, are not explained by gender differences in vulnerability nor in exposure to stress. The assertion of autonomy - a traditionally masculine quality - reduces risk for depression for both women and men, increases risk for crime among men, and reduces risk for crime among women. Autonomy, however, neither mediates the effects of gender nor moderates the effects of stress on either outcome. Results speak to the limits of examining single outcomes, and qualify conditions under which gendered qualities such as autonomy may act as psychosocial "resources" or "detriments" in the stress process.



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Social Psychology Quarterly


American Psychological Association

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