Gender role conflict and suicidal ideation in a late adolescent and young adult population: Age 18-24 years

Melinda Joyce Borthick, Tennessee State University


The purpose of this research was to study the relationship between biological sex, sex role type (Masculine, Feminine, Androgynous, Undifferentiated), gender role conflict, self-esteem, depression, sexual orientation, and suicidal probability in males and females 18 to 24 years of age. There were 621 participants in undergraduate psychology or social science classes from four mid-South public and private universities. Participant ethnicity was declared as 36.2% Afro-American, 55.7% Caucasian, and 8.1% Other. They were 31.4% male, 68.6% female; the declared sexual orientation was 96.1% heterosexual, 2.1% non-heterosexual; and 1.8% undecided/unanswered. Sex role type was determined by the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1974). Dependent variables included gender role conflict, depression, self-esteem, and suicide probability. Gender role conflict was measured by the Gender Role Conflict Scale (Used with permission by author) (O'Neil, Helms, Gable, David, & Wrightsman, 1986) which indicates male gender role conflict patterns on four subscales (Success, Power, and Competition: SPC; Restrictive Emotionality: RE; Restrictive Affectionate Behavior Between Men: RAB; Conflict Between Work and Leisure: CBWL). The instrument was adapted for female participants. Additional variables were measured by the Beck Depression Scale (Beck, 1970), the Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965), and the Suicide Probability Scale (SPS, Cull & Gill, 1982). Fourteen hypotheses were statistically tested at.05 alpha level. Depression, low self-esteem, and all GRCS factors were significant predictors of suicide probability in this population. There were significant differences in groups based on sex role types including identification with SPC, RE, depression, and self-esteem. Males and females were equally conflicted with CBWL and SPC. Males scored significantly higher than women on RE and RAB. There was no difference between male and female participants with high gender role conflict on scores of depression or suicide probability. Although the small non-heterosexual sample size lacked power to detect real differences, bisexuals had greater depression and suicide probability than all other sexual orientation groups. Important questions and implications for psychotherapy are addressed in the paper.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Social psychology|Personality

Recommended Citation

Melinda Joyce Borthick, "Gender role conflict and suicidal ideation in a late adolescent and young adult population: Age 18-24 years" (1997). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI9806335.