The exploration of gender differences has assumed a prominent role in the well-being literature (Kashdan, Mishra, Breen & Froh, 2009), particularly within the scope of positive psychology. Previous theories of gender role behavior have sought to identify the relation between gender role orientation and well-being. One such theory is that of psychological androgyny, which is the relative balance of stereotypically masculine and feminine personality traits. Although a substantial body of research supports the role of androgyny with regard to a range of well-being outcomes (see Stake, 1997), theoretical and methodological limitations restrict androgyny theory from representing a paradigm of mental health. Recent efforts to address these concerns have resulted in the exploration of differentiated gender role traits, that is, those aspects of masculinity and femininity that are seen as socially desirable or undesirable. As a result, the present study will add to the gender and well-being research by exploring the effect of differentiated gender identities on aspects of well-being. In addition, the present study seeks to add to the growing positive psychology literature by exploring gender role behavior within a prosocial context.
Using a quasi-experimental design, 225 undergraduate and graduate students were grouped into one of seven gender role categories, including positive and negative androgyny, masculinity and femininity, and undifferentiated (A+/A-, M+/M-, F+/F-, Au), as per self-report. In Phase 1 of the study, participants completed a series of well-being inventories and were asked to provide the name and contact information of a significant other who was contacted to complete a brief well-being inventory on behalf of the participant. In Phase 2, a confederate researcher offered participants the opportunity to engage in a voluntary prosocial behavior.
Exploratory factor analyses were conducted to determine the factor loading of all dependent variables. It was hypothesized that there would be a main effect for gender valence, with A+, M+, and F+ participants all reporting higher levels of well-being than their negative counterparts, and A+ relating to the highest levels of well-being. In order to further explore the construct validity of gender role valence, it was hypothesized that A+ would add significant variance to overall well-being while controlling for the Big 5 Personality Traits, which have been consistently related to manifold aspects of well-being.
Results of the current study indicated that Life Satisfaction, Positive Affect, Negative Affect, and Subjective Happiness all loaded on the same latent variable, termed Subjective Well-being while the Scales of Psychological Well-Being and Gratitude similarly loaded on a the latent variable, termed Psychological Well-Being. An ANOVA procedure indicated a main effect for gender valence across self- and other-report of well-being while the pattern of means across all self-report dependent variables indicated that A+ produced the most optimal well-being. When controlling for the Big 5 Personality traits, A+ did not add significant variance to self-report of well-being. Further analysis of the component factors of the Big 5, however, indicated that A+ did add significant variance to self-report of well-being when controlling for Neuroticism and Extraversion. Strengths and limitations of the present study and directions for future research are discussed.