Biological sex, gender roles and social support in South Africa: The influence of positive and negative sex roles on perceptions of social support

  • Colleen Bernstein


A large body of research has indicated that there are sex differences in social support perception with women perceiving greater social support than men. However, not all research supports this sex difference. Equivocal findings with regard to biological sex and social support may be attributed to research only exploring biological sex differences and not taking into account sex role identity variations within males and females that may influence this relationship. There is a small body of research that has examined sex role identity variations and their relation to social support; however, this research has only looked at positive sex role attributes, with research on negative attributes being notably absent. The present study examined the relationship between both positive and negative attributes and social support to determine if there were ‘within group’ differences regarding these attributes and the relationship of these differences to social support, among a sample of biological females. The study was conducted on 1467 females working within the financial and tertiary sectors. Findings indicated that those with positive identities perceived greater social support than those negative identities. These findings provides an important contribution to research on sex and social support indicating that there are ‘within sex’ differences that can create variations in the way in which individuals of a specific biological sex perceive social support. Further, the study indicates the critical importance of distinguishing between positive and negative sex role identities and their implications for social support.


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eISSN: 1596-9231