American Sociological Association

Gender Orientation and the Cost of Caring for Others

The "cost-of-caring" thesis asserts that observed gender differences in psychological distress are largely a consequence of women’s greater emotional investment in the lives of their loved ones. Research on this topic has supported this thesis by showing that network events result in higher levels of depressive symptoms for women compared to men. However, other evidence challenges this claim. In light of these divergent findings, this paper elaborates this topic in three ways. First, susceptibility to network events is assessed in terms of two dimensions of psychological distress, depressive symptomatology and problem drinking. Second, within-gender analyses are conducted to examine the possibility that masculine and feminine personality traits condition the relationship between network events and psychological distress. Finally, this paper assesses age variation in the cost of caring. Data collected from 1,393 respondents ages 18 to 55 who participated in a Toronto-based community study are employed to address these issues. Findings reveal that the cost of caring for others extends to women and men, and that gender orientation modifies the relationship between network events and psychological distress. These results underscore the need to critically assess the social factors that differentiate risk and well-being for men and women.


Taylor, J.





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