Why Gender Roles Lead to Higher Rates of Depression in Women than Men

Women are raised to be gentle, loving and kind to others. As little girls, our parents teach us to feel empathy for and nurture others. We play with dolls. Boys are taught to compete with other boys, to be dominant and independent. Boys play with guns.

The way I look at it is simple: Girls play house and boys play war.

As a result, many women get their self-worth out of the role they play as wife, mother and caretaker to others. Many men get their self-worth out of their work life and their career status. We may not stop to think about this much, but I think it’s worth noting.

What many of us don’t realize, however, is the profound impact this has on our lives and the decisions we make. Women place more emphasis on being in a relationship than men do. More women suffer from depression than men do. This is a proven fact, but why?

Most of us here our Empaths, which means you have an intense feeling of empathy and compassion for others and it makes you feel good to take care of others. However, please do not rush into another relationship or think you have to get married and have children in order to be happy. Right now you must channel this compassion inward towards yourself. You need to take care of yourself for a change! It's what Buddhists call "loving-kindness" and we need to start doing more of this for ourselves.

I've been doing a lot of research for the second book and new website and there's a book called "A Secret Sadness - the hidden relationship patterns that make women depressed" by Valerie E. Whiffen, PH.D. and the stats in it our very telling. To quote the author:

"Girls are more empathic and kind than boys and men. Girls are more in step with the behavior of other people and better judges of what others are feeling. They are more agreeable and cooperative. They express less anger. Being good at relationships is a source of pride for girls. The better our relationships work, the better we feel about ourselves.

In contrast, boys are likely to spend much of their adult lives in the work world and are encouraged to develop traits that will help them thrive in this context.

Work outside the home is also an important part of women's lives in the modern world. Yet the work that must be done to keep families fed, clothed, clean and cared for remains the responsibility of women The specific activities may have changed, but women spend as much time doing housework and child care as their great-grandmothers did a hundred years ago. A significant proportion of men - about a quarter - do almost no housework or child care at all.

The female gender role is so demanding that women may feel they can never do a good enough job. The work associated with the female gender role is never really finished.

Research shows that women suffer from depression more than men. Many researchers have looked to the personality traits that society encourages in girls and women as an explanation for women's greater depression. These researchers wonder if these traits put women at risk for depression.

Positive traits like empathy and warmth are not associated with depression. However, women whose personalities are extremely oriented toward caring for other people do experience more depression.

Most women try to meet the needs of others to some extent. However, the only way to do this constantly is by ignoring our own needs. Researchers believe women suffer from more depression than men because many women constantly put the needs of their husbands and children ahead of their own, often to the point of self-sacrifice.

Research concludes that over time, women begin to feel frustrated and resentful that their needs are never met and their hard work is never appreciated. Outwardly they go along with their family's demands, but inside they're seething."

Ok, so what's my point in quoting all of this author's research? Simple - I believe as females, we are so conditioned to believe that we should get ALL of our self-worth and validation out of playing the role of wife and mother and if we don't ever play these roles, we panic and think our life is pointless.

I'm sorry, but it's 2010 and I can be whatever I want to be! Sure, I'm 38 and worried that I won't have a child. I spent eight years with my ex-husband and the last eight years building awareness on narcissism. Men avoid me like the plague when they find out what I write about.

Sure, I hope to have a child, but if I don't, I don't view my life as meaningless. There are so many things I can do to a make a difference in the world. Right now, I enjoy helping people recover from narcissistic relationships. In ten years, my purpose might be different, but I doubt it. :)

My point is, we are so much more than our gender role! We can make a difference in so many ways in this modern world. We are so fortunate to be born at a time when we can be anything we want to be and do whatever we want. Not all of us are meant to have children and that's ok.

I read a statistic recently that said, 20 years ago 1 in 10 women passed their childbearing years without having children. Today, it's 1 in 5. I believe the reason for this is because we now have options! Women did not have options in the past. You were a teacher, a nurse, a secretary or a housewife. That's it. Today, a woman can be whatever she wants to be!

My point is we should stop letting society dictate what we are supposed to do and decide for ourselves. If we all did the same thing, the world would be a boring place, don't you think?

If you feel that being a mother is your life-calling and you have no question about it, then go after it! Exercise your options. We have many in this modern world. We do NOT need a man to be a mother. Artificial insemination with a sperm donor or adoption are perfectly viable options to fulfill what you believe to be your purpose in life.

We are responsible for making our destiny a reality. Once we know what drives us, we should go after it. If you don't know yet, that's ok too. Life is a journey and our purpose may change many times in our life.

The point is to enjoy what you have. Someone made a point of how much we have to be grateful for and I think this is so important for us to think about. We are not starving, we are not prisoners of war, and we are not oppressed. We should be grateful and realize how truly blessed we are.

We should not allow society to dictate what makes us successful as a woman. Having a husband and a child is NOT everyone's calling. We need not get all of our validation out of a man. For me, I can thankfully say I no longer need a man in my life to feel validated.

Focus on the blessings in your life and you will find happiness. I believe ALL of our anxiety comes from regretting the past and worrying about the future. STOP, please and begin to appreciate the moment. Life is precious and we should be grateful for every moment of it. It truly is a gift. xoxo

Nov 12 - 9PM
Susan32's picture

Narcs/Psychs who claim to be feminists...

They're the WORST, because they claim they looove women so much. A somatic Narc who sees himself as Casanova has a certain honesty. He sees women as conquests;he doesn't claim to care about women. It's the "feminist" Ns/Ps who chap my hide. Leo Tolstoy claimed to be a feminist, yet he subjected his wife Sofia to nasty misogynistic stuff. He claimed that Christian marriage should be sexless&there should be legalized prostitution-that there would be "union of spirits" for one, and an "institution of flesh" for the other. Talk about the Madonna/whore complex(!) The ex-Psych professor claimed he wanted women and men fighting alongside each other, but I got chewed out if I had an opinion of my own. He quoted Tolstoy that "moral love" existed only between men, that it was impossible between a man&a woman, and that women existed only for sexual love. He idolized the abusive union between Leo&Sofia Tolstoy. He'd tell me that if I got married to him&had kids, I'd no longer seek out the meaning of life. Total craziness. He expected a career woman, self-sufficient and independent, but who'd be totally subservient and be absorbed in her family. So, when he married the OW, a very masculine woman, he took on her last name so it was a hyphenate... what a feminist... The morbidly obese ex-Narc coworker proudly proclaimed he was a feminist, looooved it that his wife made more $$$ than him. Yet he was proud of getting a teenaged girl to flash her chest, he hit on nurses, thought he was a sex god, bragged about his sex life with his wife, and he ordered female coworkers (such as myself) around. Once I was doing a double shift, when I REALLY needed help, I asked him (I was exhausted)... and he REFUSED to help. Whenever we needed help in the kitchen, he refused to do so. But if it was unnecessary, he'd say "It's what I do." He expected women to wait on his every need. When I told him he wasn't a real chef (he bragged about being a chef, despite NOT attending chef school),he indignantly got a HUGE pile of food and stuffed it in his face. What's weird is that the ex-N coworker and the ex-P professor had wives who gave off a lesbian vibe... a common thread...
Nov 12 - 9AM
jen79's picture


If men are scared away by what you do and write about, then I think they are not worth your time. I learned one lesson in this whole mess, if you have to pretend to be more stupid than you are when being with a man, run! We have to be authentic and be who we are, to experience love for who we are from people around us. Hugs