Stress is evident in every domain of contemporary life--work, family, home, and even leisure (McBride-King & Bachmann, 1999; Shields, 2003). Juggling diverse demands in these areas on a daily basis leaves many people stressed-out (Aneshensel, 1986; Greenhaus & Parasuraman, 1999; Hochschild, 1989), which has a substantial impact on health and life quality (Avison & Gotlib, 1994; Crandall & Perrewe, 1995; Hobfoll, 1998). To deal with stress, people consciously and unconsciously use various methods of coping (Gottlieb, 1997) as essential life-survival techniques (Lazarus, 1999).
Since stress and coping are considered key determinants of health and life quality (Zeidner & Endler, 1996), stress-coping research has important theoretical and practical implications (Folkman & Moskowitz, 2000a). Examining the ways in which people cope with stress in their lives can help facilitate understanding of the processes and mechanisms by which coping strategies counteract the negative impact of stress on health and well-being (Somerfield & McCrae, 2000). This knowledge could also be useful in the development of effective health-related policies and programs to prevent stress-induced illnesses, reduce health service costs, and promote population health (Folkman & Greer, 2000).
Despite the growth of stress and coping research (Somerfield & McCrae, 2000), gender-based analyses in this area are limited. Davidson and Fielden (1999) and Greenglass (1995) argued that stress research has focused primarily on men. The current conceptualization of stress is based almost entirely on the normative perspectives of men, and existing measures of stress have been criticized as male-oriented, which may undermine their usefulness for assessing stress in women's lives (e.g., Bell & Lee, 2002; Zalaquett & Wood, 1997, 1998). For example, the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS, Holmes & Rahe, 19(57) and second generation scales, such as the Life Events Survey and the PERI Life Events Scale, which are popular in life-event approaches to stress research, have been criticized for their gender and cultural biases because "most were developed decades ago with all-male samples in particular occupational groups such as the US Navy and US college students" (Bell & Lee, 2002, p. 190). Furthermore, the Handbook of Coping: Theory, Research, Applications (Zeidner & Endler, 1996) and a special issue of American Psychologist on stress and coping research (Somerfield & McCrae, 2000), two landmark publications in this area, did not address the importance of gender and culture.
While attention to the role of gender in stress coping has been limited, what is known suggests that women's methods of coping may not he exactly the same as men's. For example, women and men may cope with stress in different ways partly because women and men tend to encounter different sources or causes of stress. Unlike most employed fathers who primarily take the breadwinner role (Davidson & Fielden, 1999; Schwartz, 1994), employed mothers, especially those with small children, often juggle multiple roles and responsibilities (home, work, care-giving, etc.), which may result in unique stress experiences and/or methods of coping (Powell, 1999; Statistics Canada, 2003). According to the 2001 Canadian Census (Statistics Canada, 2003), women continue to do most of the household work, with approximately 21% of Canadian women reporting 30 or more hours of housework in the week prior to the census. Only eight percent of their male counterparts reported the same level of involvement. This division of labour has remained virtually unchanged since 1996 (Statistics Canada, 2003).
Furthermore, it has been shown that psychosocial aspects of gender, such as gender roles, influence the ways women and men cope with stress (e.g., Gianakos, 2000, 2002). There is also a need to recognize issues of inequality, discrimination, and sexism to understand the gendered nature of women's lives, as opposed to men's lives (Ghorayski, 2002). …