A qualitative analysis of gender differences in the experience of depressive symptoms
Daughtry, Donald W.
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It is well established that adult women as compared to men are over-represented regarding depressive symptoms and unipolar depression by a ratio of approximately 2 to 1. This phenomena is consistent even when factors such as ethnicity, levels of income, education, and occupation are controlled. This investigation is phenomenologically focused, and aimed at the identification and exploration of latent constructs salient to adult women's and men's organization and expression of depressive symptoms. It employs a two-study research design that blends qualitative and quantitative research strategies. In Study One, an alternative research methodology, concept mapping, was used to elicit and graphically represent participants' perceptions of depressive experience. Participants in Study One were coTTTTunity college students (n = 59). Qualitative data reduction was also employed to derive a depressive symptom inventory based on these perceptions. In Study Two, this questionnaire was administered to a larger sample (n = 393) of carmunity college students. Participants in both studies were also administered the CES-D and the PAQ. Stepwise discriminate function and regression analysis were employed to determine the variation of Study Two participant responses regarding gender, level of depressive symptoms, and gender role identification. Evidence from the first study suggests that adult women and men differ regarding their conceptual organization of depressive symptoms. It seems that adult women's depressive experiences were arrayed along dimensions of intrapersonal/interpersonal difficulties and emotional constrictionemotional expression. Men's experiences of depressive symptcms seemed arrayed along the dimensions of social stress-social isolation and internal chaos-lack of confidence. Evidence from the second study suggests that at least some of the concept mapping clusters may generalize to a separate sample. Experiences of vegetative-negative physical appraisal contributed most significantly to the correct classification of adult women by gender. Experiences of burdened-paranoid contributed most significantly to the correct classification of men by gender. Results from the second study also suggest that experiences of despair were most related to adult women's level of depressive symptoms, while experiences of unhappmess were most related to men's symptom level. Results from the second study showed little support for the influence of gender role identification on participants expression of depressive symptomatology.