• The Effect of Sex and Gender Role Orientation on Attitudes towards Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder

      Slowik, Amanda K. (2013-09-06)
      Research suggests that Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is associated with a feminine gender role and the female sex. However, little is known about how men who demonstrate DPD are perceived. Research also suggests that attitudes might be affected by the sex and gender role of the participant, with men and individuals who identify with traditional gender roles making harsher judgments of individuals who exhibit behaviors that are not consistent with traditional gender roles. As the categorical diagnosis of personality disorders has been widely criticized and may soon be replaced, the DSM-5 draft describes the symptoms of DPD using three dimensions (i.e., submissiveness, anxiousness, separation insecurity) in hopes of reducing co-morbidity among diagnoses. The purpose of the present study is to examine attitudes towards men and women with DPD, the moderating effects of participant sex and gender role attitudes, and possible differences between the DSM-IV-TR and DSM-5 draft conceptualizations of DPD. A sample of 240 undergraduates (99 M, 141 F) from Indiana State University completed the study online. The participants read one of four DPD vignettes (developed following the method adopted by Rienzi et al., 1994), that portrayed a man or woman with DPD as characterized by the DSM-IV-TR or the DSM-5 draft criteria. Participants rated the perceived dysfunction, distress, psychopathology, and impairment of the person in the vignette (using items adopted from Functowicz & Widiger, 1999). They also rated the descriptiveness of the three dimensions of DPD in the DSM-5 for the person in the vignette (using the DSM-5 draft rating scale, APA, 2010) and rated general attitudes towards the person using items from the Rubin (1974) Liking Scale. Finally, participants completed the Social Roles Questionnaire (SRQ; Baber & Tucker, 2006) to examine participants’ attitudes toward gender roles. One-way ANOVAs indicated that female participants were significantly less traditional, less sex-linked, and more gender transcendent than male participants. Multivariate results indicated a significant effect of the covariate (participant’s gender role attitudes), but there were no significant effects of participant sex, sex of the person in the vignette, DSM version, or any significant interactions. The univariate analyses indicated significant differences in all dependent variables except for level of psychopathology as a function of a participant’s gender role orientation. Participants who had less traditional gender role attitudes rated the individual in the vignette more negatively (i.e., more impairment and distress; higher in dependency and the three traits representing DPD in the DSM-5 draft; lower agreement with the statements from the Liking Scale). Additionally, a significant interaction was found for sex of the person in the vignette and participant sex for ratings of distress and one item from the Liking Scale. Specifically, female participants gave significantly higher ratings of personal distress when the vignette described a man than when it described a woman, whereas men assigned similar ratings to both versions of the DPD case. Similarly, compared to men, women indicated less agreement with the statement that most people would react favorably to the person, and the ratings were lower for the male version than the female version of the vignette, whereas men assigned similar ratings to male and female versions of the case. Finally, the person in the vignette was perceived as heterosexual by most of the participants, regardless of which vignette the participants received. Overall, the hypotheses were generally not supported. However, the study provided some support for the importance of attitudes toward gender roles in attitudes towards individuals with DPD, although it does not appear that men with DPD are viewed differently than women with the disorder. Methodological limitations, implications of the findings, and directions for future research are discussed.