Gender Role Identity and Stress in African American Women

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment

Publication Date


Date Added



Womanism is a feminist perspective that has recently been appropriated for social work practice with African American women (Littlefleld, in press). It emphasizes the centrality of gender role in African American women's psychosocial adaptation, and asserts that the archetypal gender role for this group incorporates both nurturing and economic providing functions. This gender role fluidity has been characterized both as a source of strength (Billingsley, 1992; Hill, 1999) and strain (Lewis, 1989; McAdoo, 1985). The present study empirically investigated the relationship between gender role identity and stress in African American women to clarify its adaptive value. The Bem Sex Role Inventory was used to classify subjects into groups based on the degree to which they identified themselves with stereotypically masculine and feminine traits. Women who endorsed high levels of both masculine and feminine traits experienced lower levels of stress than did other women. The findings indicate that gender role identity is a factor in African American women's psychosocial well-being, and that mainstream gender role norms may not be adequate for analyzing the experiences of this group.




Social Work