Incorporating Children's Lives into a Life Course Perspective on Stress and Mental Health
ABSTRACT Emerging themes in demography, developmental medicine, and psychiatry suggest that a comprehensive understanding of mental health across the life course requires that we incorporate the lives of children into our research. If we can learn more about the ways in which the stress process unfolds for children, we will gain important insights into the factors that influence initial set points of trajectories of mental health over the life course. This will simultaneously extend the scope of the stress process paradigm and elaborate the life course perspective on mental health. Incorporating children's lives into the sociology of mental health will also extend the intellectual influence of the discipline on sociomedical and biomedical research on mental illness. I contend that sociology's greatest promise in understanding trajectories of mental health across the life course lies in a systematic analysis of the social and social-psychological conditions of children, the stressful experiences that arise out of these conditions, and the processes that mediate and moderate the stress process in childhood. In this regard, there are three major issues that sociologists could begin to address: (1) the identification of structural and institutional factors that pattern children's exposure to stress; (2) the construction of a stress universe for children; and (3) the identification of key elements of the life course perspective that may set or alter trajectories of mental health in childhood and adolescence.
SourceAvailable from: Karen Van Gundy[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: In adolescence, vital sources of support come from family relationships; however, research that considers the health-related impact of ties to both parents and siblings is sparse, and the utility of such ties among at-risk teens is not well understood. Here we use two waves of panel data from the population of 8th and 12th grade students in a geographically isolated, rural, northeastern U.S. county to assess whether socioeconomic status (SES) moderates the effects of parental and sibling attachments on three indicators of adolescent health: obesity, depression, and problem substance use. Our findings indicate that, net of stressful life events, prior health, and sociodemographic controls, increases in parental and sibling attachment correspond with reduced odds of obesity for low-SES adolescents, reduced odds of depression for high-SES adolescents, and reduced odds of problem substance use for low-SES adolescents. Results suggest also that sibling and maternal ties are more influential than paternal ties, at least with regard to the outcomes considered. Overall, the findings highlight the value of strong family ties for the physical, psychological, and behavioral health of socioeconomically strained rural teens, and reveal the explanatory potential of both sibling and parental ties for adolescent health.Rural Sociology 12/2014; 80(1). DOI:10.1111/ruso.12055 · 1.89 Impact Factor
Article: Sex Work: A Comparative Study.[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Explanations of adult involvement in sex work typically adopt one of two approaches. One perspective highlights a variety of negative experiences in childhood and adolescence, including physical and sexual abuse, family instability, poverty, associations with "pimps" and other exploiters, homelessness, and drug use. An alternative account recognizes that some of these factors may be involved, but underscores the contribution of more immediate circumstances, such as current economic needs, human capital, and employment opportunities. Prior research offers a limited assessment of these contrasting claims: most studies have focused exclusively on people working in the sex industry and they have not assessed the independent effects of life course variables central to these two perspectives. We add to this literature with an analysis that drew on insights from life course and life-span development theories and considered the contributions of factors from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Our comparative approach examined predictors of employment in sex work relative to two other low-income service or care work occupations: food and beverage serving and barbering and hairstyling. Using data from a study of almost 600 workers from two cities, one in Canada and the other in the United States, we found that both immediate circumstances and negative experiences from early life are related to current sex work involvement: childhood poverty, abuse, and family instability were independently associated with adult sex work, as were limited education and employment experience, adult drug use, and marital status.Archives of Sexual Behavior 03/2014; DOI:10.1007/s10508-014-0281-7 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Stress proliferation theory suggests that parental incarceration may have deleterious intergenerational health consequences. In this study, I use data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) to estimate the relationship between parental incarceration and children's fair or poor overall health, a range of physical and mental health conditions, activity limitations, and chronic school absence. Descriptive statistics show that children of incarcerated parents are a vulnerable population who experience disadvantages across an array of health outcomes. After adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and familial characteristics, I find that parental incarceration is independently associated with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavioral or conduct problems, developmental delays, and speech or language problems. Taken together, results suggest that children's health disadvantages are an overlooked and unintended consequence of mass incarceration and that incarceration, given its unequal distribution across the population, may have implications for population-level racial-ethnic and social class inequalities in children's health.Journal of Health and Social Behavior 09/2014; 55(3):302-19. DOI:10.1177/0022146514544173 · 2.72 Impact Factor