Using a social construction of gender lens to understand gender differences in posttraumatic stress disorder

Publication date: Available online 9 March 2018
Source:Clinical Psychology Review
Author(s): Amy E. Street, Christina M. Dardis
A wealth of research has established clear gender differences in exposure to potentially traumatic events and in subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One perspective that is missing from most conversations about gender differences in PTSD is a systematic discussion of gender role socialization, and relatedly, the social construction of gender within our society. The purpose of the present review is to provide exposure to these theories as they relate to gender differences in PTSD, including differences in trauma exposure, risk for the development and maintenance of PTSD symptoms, and PTSD treatment outcome. In this review we focus on characteristics and behaviors that arise from a way of being in the world that is largely influenced by assigned gender. These include gender differences in patterns of trauma exposure, chronic environmental strain, behavioral responses to distress, cognitive factors, and the experience and expression of emotion. We posit that these different sets of factors reciprocally influence each other and combine synergistically to influence observed gender differences.The research reviewed here indicates that societal definitions of masculinity and femininity have psychological consequences in that they produce gender differences in major risk factors relevant to PTSD.