The purpose of this study was to explore feminine and menstrual socialization, expectations about experiencing symptoms, and the stressful nature of women's lives among women with three perimenstrual symptom patterns. Social learning and stress theory provided a theoretical framework for understanding why some menstruating women experience premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual magnification symptom patterns. Data about socialization, stressful life context, expectations about symptoms, depressed mood, and other health-related and demographic indicators were obtained from an interview. Subsequent daily recordings in a health diary for two or more menstrual cycles provided data with which to classify women's symptoms across the menstrual cycle as a low severity symptom (LS, n = 73), premenstrual syndrome (PMS, n = 36), or premenstrual magnification (PMM, n = 62) pattern. Stepwise discriminant function analysis demonstrated that stressful life context, menstrual socialization, and expectations about symptoms related to menstruation differentiated women with an LS from those with a PMS or PMM symptom pattern. In addition, depressed mood differentiated the three groups. ©1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.