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Can gender identity explain gaps between women and men in levels of anxiety?

Conference contribution
Authors Lena Wängnerud
Maria Solevid
Monika Djerf-Pierre
Published in Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, September 1-4, Philadelphia & ECPR General Conference, September 7-10, Prague
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Department of Political Science
Language en
Keywords Gender identity, binary gender, sociotropic anxiety, egotropic anxiety, vulnerability
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


This paper introduces a novel approach to the study of gender identity, based on three guiding principles: (i) it should be possible to choose between identities (ii) there should be gradations in identity strength and (iii) the measurement should be comparatively simple. The gender identity measurement captures self-placement on two separate scales running from 0 “few male/female qualities” to 10 “many male/female qualities.” Second, the paper includes a test of the usefulness of this approach by applying it to an area where gender gaps are persistent across time and space: Research in a wide variety of fields, ranging from criminology and risk sociology to political psychology and risk psychology, shows that women tend to display higher levels of anxiety to both personal and social risks and threats than do men. The data used draws from a high-quality survey conducted by the SOM-institute, University of Gothenburg, in 2013. Levels of anxiety are measured through two indexes, the Egotropic Anxiety Index, EAI, relating to anxiety for the personal situation, and the Sociotropic Anxiety Index, SAI, relating to anxiety for society at large. The results reveal significant interaction effects between gender and gender identity. We are able to show that there is no difference in levels of egotropic anxiety between women and men with few female qualities. However, the higher the degree of female qualities among women, the higher the level of egotropic anxiety while we cannot identify any change among men. The results for sociotropic anxiety are very similar: at low levels of female gender identity, there is no significant difference in sociotropic anxiety between women and men but the higher the levels of female qualities, the higher the sociotropic anxiety among women. The paper conclude that the gender identity measurement indeed contribute to explain levels of anxiety between women and men. Moreover, the guiding principles enables for large-scale studies in other areas than anxiety research to measure “the shades of grey” when it comes to the gender factor and thereby make more distinct gender analysis.

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