An Examination of Gender and Life Stage Differences In the Experience of Stress At Work

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Patricia J. Faulkender

Advisor Department



The purpose of this study was to add to descriptive research on occupational stress using a process model. This study explores life stage and gender-based differences in the stress-coping-strain process. One hundred and sixty-two adults between the ages of 22 and 60, from a wide variety of occupations, completed surveys on work stress and daily hassles and uplifts. The age groupings used were based on Levinson's (1986) theory of adult development. Role insufficiency was the only source of stress that the groups clearly differed on, with the second youngest group (28-32 year olds), reporting significantly more stress from role insufficiency than the older subjects in the study. The attempt to distinguish between the various age groups by types of work stress experienced worked best in the cases of the youngest and oldest workers. The stressor variables that were most useful in this task were role insufficiency, role ambiguity, the physical environment, and daily hassles. Choice of coping resources used and types of strain experienced were not very helpful in distinguishing between individuals at different life stages. Women were expected to report more nonwork stress than men, due to a higher degree of role overload between work and nonwork roles, however, this expectation was not confirmed in the present study. In terms of sources of stress from the workplace, men reported significantly higher levels of stress than women arising from responsibility and the physical environment. Women and men did not differ in terms of coping resources used or strains experienced resulting from stress.