Mechanisms linking stressful life events and mental health problems in a prospective, community-based sample of adolescents

Citation:

McLaughlin, K. A., & Hatzenbuehler, M. L. (2009). Mechanisms linking stressful life events and mental health problems in a prospective, community-based sample of adolescents. The Journal of Adolescent Health: Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine , 44 (2), 153–160.
PDF418 KB

Date Published:

feb

Abstract:

PURPOSE: Stressful life events represent potent risk factors for the development of internalizing symptoms among adolescents. However the mechanisms linking stress to adolescent psychopathology remain inadequately understood. This study examined the role of emotion dysregulation as a mechanism linking stress to changes in internalizing symptoms among adolescents. METHODS: This study used a short-term longitudinal design. Stressful life events were assessed in a large diverse sample of adolescents (N = 1065), and emotion dysregulation and symptomatology outcomes were assessed at two subsequent time points. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the role of emotion dysregulation as a mediator of the association between stress and subsequent changes in internalizing symptoms. RESULTS: Emotion dysregulation mediated the relationship between stressful life events and changes in internalizing symptoms over time. Sobel's test indicated a significant indirect effect of stressful life events on subsequent symptoms of depression (z = 5.05, p \textless .001) and anxiety (z = 4.95, p \textless .001) through emotion dysregulation. CONCLUSIONS: Stressful life events appear to disrupt the adaptive processing of emotion among adolescents. Emotion dysregulation represents an intrapersonal mechanism linking stress to poor mental health outcomes. The implications for preventive interventions are discussed.

Last updated on 10/09/2018