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Inge Broverman



Training Location(s):

PhD, Clark Univeristy, (1961)

Primary Affiliation(s):

Fielding Graduate Institute, (1985-1996)

University of Massachusetts Medical School, (1978-1985)

Media Links:



Career Focus: Sex-role stereotyping; clinical psychology; clinical diagnostics; psychiatry.


Inge Komers was born in Vienna in 1931 and immigrated to the United States shortly after the Second World War. She lived and studied in Worcester Massachusetts for much of her life, and it was most likely during her time at Clark University, where she earned her PhD in 1961, that she met her husband Donald Broverman. Following her graduate work, Inge, along with Donald, took a research position at Worcester State Hospital. The couple remained there until 1978.


At Worcester State Hospital Broverman began her work on clinical diagnoses and sex-role stereotyping. In 1968, she and her colleagues published a study that considered how college students described their self-concept in relation to sex-roles. Using a stereotype questionnaire that asked several bipolar questions (participants were asked to rate themselves between two extremes such as, for example, "not at all aggressive" and "very aggressive"), Broverman examined how responses to the questionnaire related to sex-role stereotypes. The study showed that the responses given by the students supported the idea that, despite the changes brought about by events such as the women's movement, men and women still saw themselves as fulfilling specific sex-role stereotypes. In other words, men saw themselves as more confident and aggressive, while women considered themselves to be more gentle and quiet.


Shortly following this study, Broverman extended the research to another area that interested her a great deal. She wanted to see how these sex-role stereotypes and self-concepts impacted clinicians and their diagnostic and treatment practices. In what is perhaps her best known piece of work, Broverman and her colleagues set out to determine how sex influenced a clinician's definition of a psychologically healthy adult. Broverman asked 79 mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers, to use the stereotype questionnaire used in the college student study to describe a mature, healthy adult. Some of the participants were asked only to describe a male, others a female, and the rest were asked to describe a healthy adult with an unspecified sex. The results indicated that participants believed that a healthy adult and a healthy male shared virtually all the same characteristics. A healthy female, however, was thought to possess different qualities. The adults and males were said to share a "competence cluster" of traits such as confidence and independence, while women had a "warmth-expressiveness cluster" that described kindness and concern for others. This put women in a situation where, if they demonstrated those traits considered healthy for a woman, they were simultaneously classified as an unhealthy, psychologically immature adult.


The results of this study were taken up widely and have been highly cited in the decades since to highlight issues of gender bias in diagnosis and treatment. Broverman et al.'s work appeared to show that it was not only an individual's self-concept that adhered to sex-role stereotypes, but also the beliefs of mental health professionals. The study has since been heavily critiqued on methodological grounds, including the concern that the findings were produced artifactually as a function of the higher proportion of socially desirable male attributes included in the item pool. Nonetheless, it struck a cultural chord at a time when the mental health profession was male-dominated and contemporaneous works like Phyllis Chesler's Women and Madness were calling attention to the intense sexism in the field.


In 1978, Broverman decided to leave her position at Worcester State Hospital. From there, she went on to become an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where she remained until the early 1980s. In 1985, Broverman was offered the position of associate dean of the psychology department at the Fielding Graduate University (formerly the Fielding Graduate Institute) in Santa Barbara, California. She remained on staff at Fielding until her death in 1996. She died of cancer at the age of 65.


by Meghan George (2011)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works:

By Inge Broverman

Phillips, L., Broverman, I. K. & Zigler, E. (1966). Social competence and psychiatric diagnosis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 71(3), 209-214.


Rosenkrantz, P., Vogel, S., Bee, H., Broverman, I. & Broverman, D. M. (1968). Sex-role stereotypes and self-concepts in college students. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 32(3), 287-295.


Broverman, I. K., Broverman, D. M., Clarkson, F. E., Rosenkrantz, P. S. & Vogel, S. R. (1970). Sex-role stereotypes and clinical judgments of mental health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 34(1), 1-7.


Vogel, S. R., Rosenkrantz, P. S., Broverman, I. K., Broverman, D. M. & Clarkson, F. E. (1975). Sex-role self-concepts and life style plans for young women. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43(3), 427.


Vogel, W., Peterson, L. E. & Broverman, I. K. (1982). A modification of Rachman's habituation technique for treatment of the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Research and Therapy, 20(2), 101-104. 


About Inge Broverman

Saxon, W. (1996, August 25). Dr. Inge K. Broverman, 65; Studied sexual stereotyping. New York Times.