The Impact of Gender-Based Microaggressions and Internalized Sexism on Mental Health Outcomes: A Mother–Daughter Study

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Family Relations






Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

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Background: Although research is emerging on the subtle slights that women experience, research is needed regarding the frequency with which gender-based microaggressions occur, their impact on mental health, and how views on gender roles may influence their impact. Objective: The current study examined how mothers and daughters experienced gender-based microaggressions, internalized sexism, and mental health symptoms. Methods: The sample included 102 predominantly White mother–daughter pairs. Adolescents were 14 to 18 years old, and mothers were 34 to 68 years old. Mothers and daughters answered surveys including a demographic questionnaire, the Gender-Microaggressions Scale, Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, the Patient Health Questionnaire—9 for depression, and the General Anxiety Disorder—7 for anxiety. Results: Greater gender-related microaggressions experienced in the past month were related to higher levels of mental health distress associated with depression and anxiety among mothers and daughters (p < .05). Mothers and daughters scores were significantly correlated (p < .05) for microaggressions experienced in the past month, total score of the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, depression, and anxiety. For mother's depression, a mother's level of ambivalent sexism approached significance in terms of moderating the relationship between microaggressions and mental health (p = .055). Conclusion: Our findings suggest that microaggressions are related to mental health distress in adolescent girls and middle-aged women. Implications: Uncovering the chronic nature of gender-based microaggressions and how these may affect individuals and family systems may be useful in individual and family therapy as well as in efforts to change broader social processes.

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