The effects of female gender role appraisal and body image threat on the stress responses of women: a validation of the feminine gender role stress scale

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1991
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Virginia Tech
Abstract

The purpose of the present study was 1) to begin exploring the relationship between female gender role stress and eating disorders and 2) to validate the ability of the Feminine Gender Role Stress scale (FGRS; Gillespie, 1990) to distinguish between women who are more likely to evidence behavioral and physiological reactivity to a "feminine" (body image) stressor than a neutral control condition. The FGRS scale was developed to measure the cognitive tendency among women to appraise specific situations as stressful due to commitments, beliefs, and values that are a product of the traditional female gender role. It was proposed that women with high female gender role stress, as measured by this scale, should display more reactivity when female stressors are encountered. This hypothesis was tested by selecting women who scored high and low on the FGRS scale and subjecting them to a situation found to be more stressful for women than for men during which physiological and psychological distress were monitored. The stressor entailed a body-image-threat physical exam and interview which was designed to be a stressor relevant to body image disturbance and eating disorders. The experimental design was a 2 (High verses Low FGRS women) by 2 (Stress condition verses a Control condition) factorial design with cardiovascular reactivity and self-reported anxiety as dependent variables.

The results supported the predicted interaction between FGRS and Stress Condition on heart rate reactivity. High FGRS women in the Stress Condition evidenced greater heart rate reactivity than Low FGRS women or participants in the Control Condition. Support for experimental hypotheses was found in a Similar trend for interaction for systolic blood pressure reactivity, whereas diastolic blood pressure reactivity was less supportive. It is believed that the FGRS scale can distinguish which women will evidence stress in situations which challenge traditional female gender role values and beliefs. Therefore, the FGRS may have utility for determining which women are more vulnerable to developing female predominant psychopathology, such as eating disorders.

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