FEMININITY, PATHOLOGY, AND THE CONSTRUCT OF CODEPENDENCY
Vander-Zanden (1990) reported that in Western societies, in general, and in American society, in particular:
. . . patterns of sexual inequality have been sustained by assigning the economic provider role to men and the child rearing role to women . . . motherhood has been central to American definitions of the female role. (p. 343)
Furthermore, Hewlett (1986) has noted that, despite changing social values and mores, about 90 percent of women in contemporary times continue to most identify with the role of wife and mother.
Of interest to the proposed research is the assertion that the typical sex-role of wife and mother is, according to Jack (1991), a role that calls for an identification of self in terms of self's relationships to others; on the other hand, Jack reports that the typical male sex-role (i.e. aggressive, independent, competitive) is related to a more autonomous definition of self.
The foregoing characterization of sex-roles in relation to self-identification has an important implication with respect to the psychological construct of codependency. In this regard, Span and Fischer (1990) define codependency as:
. . . a dysfunctional pattern of relating to others. This pattern is characterized by extreme focus outside of self, lack of open expression of feelings, and attempts to derive a sense of purpose through relationships. (p. 27)
Codependency has been proposed as a pathological condition underlying many medical and psychological complaints seen by health care providers (Stanhope & Lancaster, 1992).
Now if sex-role type is, as proposed by Jack (1991), related to an identification of self with others on the part of the female but not on the part of the male, then it could be that there is a built-in bias in the diagnostic structure of codependency such that the greater a woman's degree of identification with the traditional female se...