The Role of Anger as a Component of a Masculine Variation of Depression

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Large-scale studies of the incidence and prevalence of psychological disorders have consistently shown that women meet full Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; DSM–IV–TR; APA, 2000) criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD) at twice the rate of men (Kessler et al., 1994; Kessler, Demler et al., 2005; Robins & Reiger, 1991). Some have proposed (Cochran & Rabinowitz, 2000; Kilmartin, 2005; Pollack, 1998, 2001) that the DSM–IV–TR diagnostic criteria do not adequately reflect the depressive symptoms of some men, specifically men who tend to use more externalizing defenses and distracting coping styles to manage negative affect. Furthermore, increased levels of anger and irritability are hypothesized to be primary forms of externalizing symptoms consistent with a masculine or acting-out variation of MDD (Kilmartin, 2005; Magovcevic & Addis, 2008). The purpose of this study was to examine how adherence to masculine gender-role norms and anger predict depressive symptoms in men. A multiple regression model was developed to examine how trait anger, expressed anger, and adherence to traditional masculine role norms predict depressive symptoms in a sample of male college students (N = 274). The overall regression model was found to moderately predict depressive symptoms. Trait anger also moderately predicted depressive symptoms in the male sample. Although it was expected that specific masculine role norms (e.g., self-reliance and emotional restriction) would also relate to depressive symptoms, no masculine role norms were associated with male students’ endorsement of depressive symptoms. Additional clinical implications, limitations of the study, and suggestions for future research are addressed.