Categorical and Continuous Measurement of Sex-Role Orientation: Differences in Associations with Young Adults' Reports of Well-Being

Article excerpt

Previous research suggests many of the qualities necessary for successful well-being are masculine in nature. However, masculinity and femininity have been considered related constructs as opposed to being distinctly different sex-role characterizations. Therefore, this study examined the hypothesized associations between sex-role orientation and reports of well-being by looking at the combined and separate contributions of masculinity and femininity reports. Responses from 286 college undergraduates to the BEM Sex Role Inventory (Bern, 1974) and measures of well-being (i.e., loneliness (UCLA Loneliness Scale, revised by Russell, Peplau, & Cutrona, 1980), personal discomfort (Personal Discomfort Subscale of the Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Social Introversion-Extroversion Scale, Graham, Schroeder, & Lilly, 1971), self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Rosenberg, 1965), and social anxiety and avoidance (Social Anxiety and Social Avoidance Scale, Franke & Hymel, 1984) indicated both categorical and continuous measures of sex role were associated with well-being. Examination of sex-role categories revealed participants with masculine and androgynous orientations reported higher well-being scores than did those with feminine and undifferentiated orientations. Further, examination of separate femininity and masculinity scores indicated that masculinity was positively - and femininity was negatively - associated with participant reports of well-being. Findings are discussed in terms of considering masculinity and femininity as separate measures of sex-role orientation when examining the association between sex roles and well-being.

Late adolescence and young adulthood have been characterized as a period of development in which specific beliefs and behaviors associated with the definition of self are adopted (Arnett, 2000; Bosma, 1992). The endorsement of sex roles is one area associated with the development of self that has been widely studied (Grimmell, 1998; Maltby, 1999; Wells, 1980). Although the development of sex-role orientation begins during childhood and adolescence (Silvern & Katz, 1986), the sex-role orientation development during the later periods of adolescence has been associated with a variety of factors directly related to one's subjective evaluation of one's well-being (Aube, Norcliffe, Craig, & Koestner, 1995). One explanation for the relationship between sex-role orientation and well-being during late adolescence and young adulthood is that sex roles define appropriate behaviors for males and females, and sex roles are associated with a range of attitudes and beliefs displayed by males and females (Davis, 2002). For example, gender differences in displays of anger and reports of psychosomatic symptoms have been associated with male and female sex-role socialization (Heiser & Gannon, 1984). Heiser and Gannon report a positive association between the endorsement of feminine sex roles and the number of psychosomatic symptoms. Further, Maltby (1999) and Pleck (1975) report a positive association between masculinity and competitiveness and insensitivity. Because many of the attitudes and beliefs associated with social interactions are associated with sex-role orientation (Frome & Eccles, 1996; Long, 1991), researchers have suggested that perceived sex-role orientation is associated with individuals' subjective evaluation of their well-being (Grimmell, 1998; Massad, 1981).

Current research with late adolescents has suggested that sex-role orientation "may influence psychological well-being." (Grimmell, 1998, p. 203). One limitation of research examining the association between sex-role orientation and well-being, however, concerns the different conceptualizations of sex-role orientation and how these conceptualizations have been used to measure sex-role orientation. Two common theories used as a foundation for the measurement and classification of sex-role orientation are the unifactorial theory of sex-typing and the two-factor model of masculinity and femininity (Spence & Hall, 1996). …

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