Boys Act Bad and Girls Get Sad: How Gender Structures Sex Differences in Adolescent Well-Being

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Title: Boys Act Bad and Girls Get Sad: How Gender Structures Sex Differences in Adolescent Well-Being
Author: Kort-Butler, Lisa A.
Advisors: Charles Tittle, Committee Member
Maxine Thompson, Committee Member
Stacy De Coster, Committee Member
Ronald Czaja, Committee Chair
Abstract: This project takes as its starting point research that indicates girls are more likely to be depressed, while boys are more likely to be delinquent. To explain these documented sex differences in well-being, I bring theories of gender to bear on how the processes described in general strain theory and the stress paradigm are modified by the processes and practices of gender. Building on past research that examines gender differences in the experience of stress, I consider how sex differences in general, agentic (intrapersonal) and communal (interpersonal) stress contribute to differences in well-being. Additionally, I further specify current approaches by examining how gender theoretically alters access to and employment of social⁄personal resources — social support, self-esteem, mastery, and coping styles. I hypothesize that these interact with the experience of stress in gendered ways to produce variance in well-being by sex. Data are from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Regression models are estimated separately for boys and girls, including interaction terms between each type of stress and social/personal resource. Analyses show boys report more delinquency, and girls report more depression. Boys report more exposure to agentic stress, but this does not translate into vulnerability. Girls, in terms of depression, are more vulnerable to general and communal stress. No social or personal resource completely accounts for their greater vulnerability to these stresses. Boys report higher levels of self-esteem, mastery, and risk-oriented coping; girls report higher levels of social support and avoidant coping. In terms of delinquency, social support and self-esteem protect girls from delinquent outcomes but are not significant for boys. Differences in coping styles provide some explanation for sex differences in well-being. For girls, avoidant coping exacerbates the damaging effects of stress on depression, while approach-oriented coping buffers the effects of stress on delinquency. Risk-oriented coping puts boys and girls at risk for delinquency and depression, but puts girls at greater risk for delinquency if they use a risk-oriented coping style to manage stress.
Date: 2007-03-06
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology

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