Avoiding the 'Desperate Housewive's' syndrome

Does the act of being 'superwoman' at work and around the home leave you feeling stressed and unable to cope? Do you identify with the TV character Lynette from 'Desperate Housewives'? University of Western Sydney researchers are looking at domestic irritability and depression in women, and whether women are risking their mental health by taking on too much responsibility.

The study will also consider the impact of relationships and pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) on women's ability to cope, and whether a partner's attitude can ease the stress.

The research team of Professor Jane Ussher, Associate Research Fellow Julie Mooney-Somers and Dr Janette Perz from the UWS Gender, Culture and Health Research Unit need women from around Australia to take part in the study.

Professor Ussher says despite the advances resulting from the women's liberation movement, recent Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission data shows that equity in the household is still a long way off.

"The 'Striking the Balance' discussion paper shows that despite women's greater involvement in paid work, they're still doing 70 per cent of the housework. On top of that, many women still maintain the primary child-rearing role," says Professor Ussher.

"Many women feel it's their responsibility - their job - to manage a household, take care of the kids, and hold down full or part-time work. They feel that they should be able to cope with everything life throws at them, without complaint.

"Women are either unwilling or unable to talk about their frustrations or fears with others because it's like admitting a weakness or a chink in the armour. By expressing vulnerability, they can't live up to their idealised notion of what's expected of women.

"But everyone has low points where the stress becomes too much, and it's usually a relatively minor incident that becomes the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. In women, this can manifest i

Contact: Margaret Paton
Research Australia

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