Gender and the Stress Process: The Significance of Interpersonal Autonomy for Depression and Criminal Behavior

Karen Van Gundy, University of New Hampshire

Drawing from social psychological theories of stress and strain, I use a representative sample of 1,800 young adults in Miami-Dade County, Florida, to investigate relationships between gender, stress, and two outcomes: depression ande criminal behavior. I also assess the extent to which interpersonal autonomy--a traditionally masculine attribute--is beneficial or damaging for social and psychological well-being. Findings suggest that women average higher depression, men average higher criminal behavior, ande stress exposure increases risk for both outcomes. Interpersonal autonomy reduces risk for depression among both young men and women, but its effect on criminal behavior is conditioned by gender. For men, autonomy increases the odds of participation in crime. For women, autonomy reduces engagement in crime until a thresholde level, at which autonomy elevates criminal behavior. The results speak to the limits of examining single stress outcomes and qualify conditions under which masculine attributes, like autonomy, may act as a psychosocial resources or detriments in the stress process.

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Updated 05/20/2006