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The Use of Multiple Outcomes in Stress Research: A Case Study of Gender Differences in Responses to Marital Dissolution

Allan V. Horwitz, Helene Raskin White and Sandra Howell-White
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 37, No. 3 (Sep., 1996), pp. 278-291
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137297
Page Count: 14
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Abstract

This study tests the hypothesis that the use of a single outcome variable distorts the mental health consequences of a stressor among different social groups. It uses the example of the impact of marital dissolution on the mental health of men and women to see whether rates of depression and alcohol problems rise disproportionately among women and men, respectively, who experience the same type of stressor. The sample compares 465 married subjects with 127 separated or divorced subjects drawn from a longitudinal study of 25-, 28-, and 31-year-olds. With controls for earlier rates of depression and alcohol problems, as well as for secondary stressors connected with separation and divorce, women undergoing marital dissolution show significantly greater increases in rates of depression compared to men who experience this stressor. Although men report far more alcohol problems than women, rates of these problems do not increase disproportionately among men, compared to women, during marital dissolution. The results indicate that the use of gender-typical mental health outcomes reduce, but do not eliminate, gender differences in the response to marital dissolution. They also indicate the need to use outcomes that typify how each group under study responds to stressful social conditions.

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