The objectives of this study were two: (i) to obtain a transcultural useful instrument to measure TGBs with psychometric guarantees (good internal structure and adequate sources of criterion validity); and (ii) to investigated the hypothesis that TGBs are associated with stress, depression and the use of maladptive tactics to resolve conflicts (as a form of IPV). Using different methodological strategies, we obtained a reduced 8-item scale with very good psychometric properties, including criterion validity sources (depressive symptomatology, stress, and IPV). A one-factor solution, which was labeled as general irrationality, was parsimonious and had an excellent fit to the data.
Previous research on the original 90-item OWBS (O’Kelly, 2011) and the 30-item MC-OWBS (Lega et al., 2014, 2018) presented problems in their factor structure based on three areas (love, work, and self) or four cognitive processes (demanding, awfulizing, frustration intolerance, and self-downing). Two reasons may explain these results: (i) it is difficult for women to distinguish between areas and processes and/or (ii) irrationality is an overall trait that transcends areas and processes and constitutes a personality feature. While this is difficult to ascertain at this stage, the preference for a general traditional beliefs factor, as proposed in the present study, is consistent even though the scale was originally developed to reflect three content areas and four thought processes (O’Kelly, 2011). Following a series of analytical strategies, exploratory and confirmatory analyses did not support an item distribution based on these three or four dimensions. Therefore, we propose a one-factor solution of the MC-OWBS-RV (i.e., global traditionalism), which offers a parsimonious factor structure that is moderately associated with important outcomes, namely depressed mood, stress, and IPV, in the expected direction.
Consistent with our proposed unidimensional structure of TGBs, the REBT’s idea of irrationality was initially viewed as a global concept (Ellis, 1962). It was only some years later that this conceptualization evolved to differentiate specific irrational beliefs in diverse areas and according to distinctive cognitive processes. This was further developed by Ellis & Wolfe (1979) and extensively applied by Wolfe (1985, 1986) in allusion to women, covering conditions such as depression, relationship problems, work issues, sexual concerns, eating disorders, and gender abuse. Since Ellis and Wolfe's pioneering work, 48 inventories to assess rational and irrational beliefs have been developed, and many of them failed to report their factor analytic results according to the expected structures (David et al., 2019). These outcomes may be explained by the use of EFA as opposed to CFA. However, the authors still concluded that there is no evidence to support the theoretical idea that the best way to conceptualize irrational or rational beliefs is through dividing items by processes or areas (David et al., 2019). It has been suggested that perhaps all the processes, or a combination of some of them, represent a single latent variable (DiGiuseppe et al., 2020). Our results are in line with this alternative.
A strength of the present study is that the strategies used to obtain a psychometrically robust measure of TGBs were beyond the implementation of classic statistics (e.g., Cronbach’s alpha). We conducted different statistical approaches to investigate the psychometric properties of the instrument, combining modern analytical methods (e.g., CFA and AUC). This allowed us to obtain a new reduced version of the scale that meets a varied number of psychometric requirements. Psychometrically, the MC-OWBS-RV is an 8-item unidimensional measure with statements revolving around roles, insights, musts, and gender stereotypes that women might self-impose. The scale also reflects women’s insights into traditional cultural stereotypes involved in gender beliefs. These TGBs, as indicated in past research, diminish their roles as human beings, subordinating their values to what is socially accepted from a patriarchal society (O’Kelly & Collard, 2016; O’Kelly & Gilson, 2019).
Additional strengths of the MC-OWBS-RV include the fact that these beliefs are relevant cross-culturally (Lega & Ellis, 2001; Lega et al., 2018) and that it has a reduced number of items (8) with a good predictive competence. In relation to the latter, there have been some calls for routine outcome monitoring of patients during therapy (Gual-Montolio et al., 2020), which should be performed more frequently (as opposed to the traditional episodic assessment in most randomized controlled trials). Having a reduced number of items, as in the MC-OWBS-RV, makes this more feasible. Ultimately, these eight gender beliefs may be used in goal-oriented clinical settings with the aim of alleviating symptomatology by helping women to become aware of and understand their thoughts and feelings, enhancing metacognitive capacities (Philipp et al., 2020).
Regarding the relation between beliefs and mental health, our results are in accordance with previous research on the maladaptive role of irrational beliefs in depression and stress (Balkis & Duru, 2019). TGBs, as measured with the MC-OWBS-RV, relate to greater severity of stress and depression, which is of critical significance in clinical interventions. Psychologists are committed daily to the real need to help men and women overcome their mental problems, improve their relationships and change attitudes that prevent them from living healthily.
In addition to the association between TGBs and mental health outcomes, an important finding was the association found between TGBs and IPV. These findings are consistent with previous research on the relevance of TGBs and their consequences in IPV (Thaller & Cimino, 2017). Past research showed that IPV could be understood as a bidirectional phenomenon in which both parties use violence and/or abusive behaviors against one another (Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2012; Sommer et al., 2017). This has significant implications for prevention purposes and underlines the critical importance of measuring TGBs. Because TGBs are relatively stable cognitive patterns, attitudes, and behaviors (Wolfe, 1992, 1995), research shows that TGBs act in different contexts and over time (Donley & Baird; 2017). Therefore, addressing TGBs would be crucial in achieving a more egalitarian society.
Since REBT was created, six decades of subsequent research has fully evidenced the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapies (David et al., 1018). Thus, REBT and other forms of cognitive-behavioral interventions are now widely recognized as empirically-supported psychosocial treatments (David et al., 2019). As the cognitive approaches claim, core beliefs related to the self, the other, the world, or the future shape the way people think, feel and behave, by conditioning internal rules, attitudes, and assumptions derived from them (Joshi & Phadke, 2018). Therefore, the early detection of maladaptive forms of thinking (e.g., TGBs) is extremely relevant in terms of prevention and treatment.
An important milestone in the field of public health is the elimination of gender violence. In this sense, the World Health Organization recommends cognitive behavior therapies as a way of alleviating the psychological consequences of the victims (WHO, 2013). Therefore, we emphasize the need to identify and challenge irrational cognitions that may have devastating costs and consequences on individuals, communities, and societies, particularly women who suffer gender violence (Campbell, 2002). According to this objective, Zapata-Calvente et al. (2019) highlighted that it is essential to change the beliefs promoted by gender socialization, “which foster male dominance and unequal relationships between men and women”. Consequently, assessing TGBs is necessary to both advance in gender research and to construct a fairer society. Again, having a reduced set of core TGBs in the MC-OWBS-RV might facilitate this task.
Beliefs have unique implications for understanding the impact of the experience of gender abuse (Ayala Albites, 2018). When women think irrationally, they hold dysfunctional, inaccurate, unhelpful, judgmental and/or unrealistic beliefs that constitute a vulnerability factor for managing potential stressors. Gender violence is indeed a major public health problem in Spain (MSSCI, 2020) and globally (WHO, 2013). Accordingly, the Spanish Government claimed in its Equality Delegation that there is fundamental work to be done toward changing our cultural model, attitudes, and values. To do so, traditional stereotypes need to be eliminated, and equality must be promoted. Similarly, freedom ought to be achieved, and all forms of violence against women need to be eradicated.
Unfortunately, many young women who suffered gender violence are unacknowledged victims who do not view their experience as a form of victimization (Littleton et al., 2017). Any phenomenon with a gendered view implies observing what is invisible (Salvai, 2013) and requires questioning mental patterns such as TGBs that may have been established and naturalized over centuries (Wolfe and Naimark, 1991).
This study is limited due to the characteristics of the sample, which is restricted to mostly young women. However, this may be seen as an indicator of how education is changing –or not– the mindset of younger generations vis-à-vis traditional gender beliefs. Most of the participants were Caucasian and middle class, living in urban areas. Broader samples with women from different social and economic status, age, and geographic origins in the same country may reveal differences in the level of adherence to specific TGBs. The sexual orientation of the participants was unknown, which is another limitation of the study, and we cannot be certain whether the results indicate the presence of irrational thinking related to a specific sexual orientation. Even accounting for the limitations of the sample, it seems clear that there is a moderate association between TGBs, IPV, and their psychological consequences in terms of perceived stress and depression, which supports the utility of the proposed measure of TGBs.