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Sex Differences in Vulnerability to Undesirable Life Events

Ronald C. Kessler and Jane D. McLeod
American Sociological Review
Vol. 49, No. 5 (Oct., 1984), pp. 620-631
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095420
Page Count: 12
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Sex Differences in Vulnerability to Undesirable Life Events
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Abstract

Past research has shown that the emotional impact of undesirable life events is significantly greater among women than men. This finding has led to speculation that women possess a deficit in coping capacity or in access to social support that renders them pervasively disadvantaged in responding emotionally to problematic situations. We present a different argument in this paper. We hypothesize and then document that women are not pervasively more vulnerable to the effects of undesirable events. A disaggregated analysis of life-event effects shows, further, that female vulnerability is largely confined to "network" events: life events that do not occur to the focal respondent but to someone in his or her social network who is considered important. Further results are presented to argue that this greater vulnerability is due to the greater emotional involvement of women in the lives of those around them. It is demonstrated that this emotional cost of caring is responsible for a substantial part of the overall relationship between sex and distress.

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