Gender and psychological distress among contemporary young adults in the US


Caputo, Jennifer (2016). Gender and psychological distress among contemporary young adults in the US.


My dissertation adds to a rich and varied tradition of sociological work that examines differences in the mental health of women and men in three overarching ways. First, it supplements and moves beyond this existing research by employing a contemporary and diverse sample of young men and women from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), suggesting that it is premature to assume that the gendered patterns in mental health observed in previous cohorts are identical to the patterns evident in this group. Secondly, recognizing that the experience and meaning of gender differs by other highly salient social characteristics, my dissertation explores whether the relationship between gender and mental health varies for individuals of different races/ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Thirdly, responding to calls for mental health scholars to acknowledge diversity in the experience of psychological distress, I make use of four different indicators of psychological distress in these analyses, including affective (with depressive symptoms), behavioral (with binge drinking frequency), and psychosomatic indicators (with hypertension and sleep problems). Guided by these three broad aims, the three analytic chapters assess: a) whether the young women and men of Add Health differ in their experience of these four distress indicators, b) whether there are gender differences in the relationship between the contemporary adult social roles held by the members of this cohort and distress, and c) whether there are gender differences in the relationship between this sample’s adolescent expectations for adulthood and their current achievements, as well as in their effects on psychological distress. The results of these analyses highlight that gender continues to be a highly salient source of differences in the experience of distress among contemporary young people. However, I uncover relatively few gender differences in the ways that social roles are related to psychological well-being for this cohort, or in the effects of matches and mismatches between adolescent expectations and young adult achievements on distress. I argue that these findings contribute to our knowledge about the importance of gender for adults’ emotional lives as well as to growing public concern about the health and well-being of millennials.



Social sciences Health and environmental sciences Expectations Psychological distress Well-being Young adulthood Mental health Sociology Gender studies 0347:Mental health 0733:Gender studies 0626:Sociology


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Caputo, Jennifer

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McLeod, Jane D.

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Indiana University





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