Subjective anxiety and behavioral avoidance: Gender, gender role, and perceived confirmability of self-report

Carmen P. McLean, Debra A. Hope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Commonly reported gender effects for differential vulnerability for anxiety may relate to gender socialization processes. The present study examined the relationship between gender role and fear under experimental conditions designed to elicit accurate fear reporting. Undergraduate students (N=119) completed several self-report measures and a behavioral avoidance task (BAT) with a tarantula while wearing a heart rate monitor. Gender roles were operationalized as instrumentality and expressiveness, as measured by the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1975). As expected, women reported greater subjective anxiety and were more avoidant of the tarantula than men. Regardless of gender, low levels of instrumentality were associated with greater avoidance of the tarantula. The hypothesis that men underreport fear compared to women and that gender role differences underlie this reporting bias was not supported. In spite of a ceiling effect on the BAT, results of this study confirm the relevance of gender role in understanding gender effects in fear and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)494-502
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Anxiety
  • Behavioral avoidance
  • Gender differences
  • Gender role

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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