Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counseling and Personnel

First Advisor

Dr. Edward L. Trembley

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Stoline

Third Advisor

Dr. Uldis Smidchens

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Bullmer


In this study, social-psychological variables were explored in the etiology of depression in women. Depression was examined as a function of undesirable life events, occupational and marital roles, and four vulnerability variables: (a) high relational and low direct achieving style, (b) dominance of partner, (c) powerlessness, and (d) negative attitudes toward feminism. The purpose of the study was to examine whether women in varying occupational and marital status groups would differ in degree of depression, proposed vulnerability variables, and selected background variables. The relationship of vulnerability and background variables to depression was explored.

It was hypothesized that vulnerability variables and depression would be distributed differently among professionals, clerical/sales workers, homemakers, and semi/unskilled workers, and among married, never-married, and divorced/separated women. Rank-ordered differences were hypothesized for the occupational groups.

A stratified random sample of full-time employed women and full-time homemakers, age 25-50, was drawn from Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Of 240 volunteering women, 89.6% responded: 58 professionals, 55 clerical/sales workers, 54 homemakers, and 48 semi/skilled workers. The mailed questionnaire contained the PERI Life Events Scale, CES-Depression Scale, Achieving Styles Inventory, Dominance-Submission Scale, Mastery/Powerlessness Scale, FEM-Scale, and background items. Ordered means analyses of variance, analyses of variance and covariance, correlations, and multiple regression analyses were employed.

No significant differences were found among occupational groups in experienced undesirable life events. Divorced/separated women reported higher undesirable life events than married and never-married women. Professionals were less depressed than clerical/sales and semi/unskilled workers. Semi/unskilled workers reported lowest mastery, professionals the highest. Positive attitudes toward feminism ranged from low to high: semi/unskilled workers < homemakers < clerical/sales workers < professionals. Divorced/separated women were more depressed than married and never-married women.

Controlling for undesirable life events, professionals were least depressed. Divorced/separated professionals were slightly less depressed, though not significantly, than other married and never-married occupational groups. Professionals reported high levels of protective variables: power-direct achieving style, mastery, positive attitudes toward feminism, and confiding relationships with partners.

Depression was positively related to viewing self and partner as dominant, needing others for achievement, lacking a confiding relationship, and feeling dissatisfied with life. Depression was inversely related to mastery, occupational prestige, educational level, and family income. The combination of occupational status, vulnerability variables, and background variables accounted for 60.1% of the variance on depression.

It was concluded that occupational levels need to be differentiated when examining the relation of women's employment and depression. The combination of work which fosters mastery, confiding relationship, neither perceiving self nor partner as dominant, and positive attitudes toward feminism appear to be protective against depression. Gaining access to higher level occupations may protect against hard economic consequences of divorce and may decrease women's epidemiological depression. Theoretical and practical implications and recommendations for further research are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access