Inventorying stressful life events as risk factors for psychopathology: Toward resolution of the problem of intracategory variability

Department of Psychiatry and Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.
Psychological Bulletin (Impact Factor: 14.76). 06/2006; 132(3):477-95. DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.3.477
Source: PubMed


An explosion of research on life events has occurred since the publication of the Holmes and Rahe checklist in 1967. Despite criticism, especially of their use in research on psychopathology, such economical inventories have remained dominant. Most of the problems of reliability and validity with traditional inventories can be traced to the intracategory variability of actual events reported in their broad checklist categories. The purposes of this review are, first, to examine how this problem has been addressed within the tradition of economical checklist approaches; second, to determine how it has been dealt with by far less widely used and far less economical labor-intensive interview and narrative-rating approaches; and, third, to assess the prospects for relatively economical, as well as reliable and valid, solutions.

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    • "provide the category of ' socioeconomic problems ' vs . listing ' did not have enough money for basics , ' ' had to move out of my home ' ; see Dohrenwend , 2006 ) . For this study , we included a write - in response option to better characterize the profile of stressors experienced by a high - risk group . "
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    ABSTRACT: Stressful life events (SLEs) may elicit positive psychosocial change among youth, referred to as Post-traumatic Growth (PTG). We assessed types of SLEs experienced, degree to which participants reported PTG, and variables predicting PTG across 24 months among a sample of high risk, ethnically diverse early emerging adults. Participants were recruited from alternative high schools (n = 564; mean age=16.8; 65% Hispanic). Multi-level regression models were constructed to examine the impact of environmental (SLE quantity, severity) and personal factors (hedonic ability, perceived stress, developmental stage, future time orientation) on a composite score of PTG. The majority of participants reported positive changes resulted from their most life-altering SLE of the past two years. Predictors of PTG included fewer SLEs, less general stress, having a future time perspective, and greater identification with the developmental stage of Emerging Adulthood. Findings suggest intervention targets to foster positive adaptation among early emerging adults who experience frequent SLEs.
    The Journal of Positive Psychology 12/2014; DOI:10.1080/17439760.2014.994223 · 1.67 Impact Factor
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    • "Life events are environmental circumstances that typically produce significant life changes (e.g. death of a family member, receiving a failing grade, conflict with a classmate and separation from a boyfriend/girlfriend), thus taxing people's resources to adapt and return to homeostasis, and they are typically measured by a count of undesirable events (Dohrenwend, 2006). Most people perceive stressful life events as threatening and harmful, as they generally need to see their lives as consistent and to construct a self that is coherent (Cheng & Lee, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined the relationships between stressful life events in childhood and differentiation of self and intergenerational triangulation in adulthood. The sample included 217 students (173 females and 44 males) from a college in northern Israel. Participants completed the Hebrew versions of Life Events Checklist (LEC), Differentiation of Self Inventory-Revised (DSI-R) and intergenerational triangulation (INTRI). The main findings were that levels of stressful life events during childhood and adolescence among both genders were positively correlated with the levels of fusion with others and intergenerational triangulation. The levels of positive life events were negatively related to levels of emotional reactivity, emotional cut-off and intergenerational triangulation. Levels of stressful life events in females were positively correlated with emotional reactivity. Intergenerational triangulation was correlated with emotional reactivity, emotional cut-off, fusion with others and I-position. Findings suggest that families that experience higher levels of stressful life events may be at risk for higher levels of intergenerational triangulation and lower levels of differentiation of self.
    International Journal of Psychology 12/2014; 49(6). DOI:10.1002/ijop.12054 · 1.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Stressor exposure, measured via a checklist as the cumulative sum of exposure to a number of stressful events (i.e., being fired, divorce, death of a loved one) during a period of time (i.e., past month, past year, ever), has been used as the primary method for researching the role of stressful life events in psychopathology and other health outcomes (cf. Dohrenwend, 2006). The utility of this operationalization allows researchers to assess the cumulative effects of stressful life events and how this accumulation results in negative health outcomes— especially in persons of low socioeconomic status (SES; Thoits, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Although stress is linked to mental and physical health, self-reports of stress may be operationalized using measures that emphasize cognitive appraisals of stressors or that simply record stressor exposure. Theory and research suggest that appraisal-based measures may be superior in measuring self-reports of stress. Yet, use of exposure-based measures persists, especially in ethnic disparities research. This study examined the utility of appraisal-based versus exposure-based stress measures in linking stress to mental and physical health in low-income Black women. Measures emphasizing cognitive appraisals were superior in predicting mental and physical health as global stress rating best predicted physical health while mental health was best predicted by perceived stress. A checklist of exposure to stressful events was not substantially predictive of either mental or physical health, suggesting that cognitive appraisals of stressors are important in linking stress to health perceptions in Blacks. Results also suggest that stress impacts mental health first, which then in turn influences physical health. Overall, these results illuminate the importance of cognitive appraisals in linking stress to perceptions of mental and physical health in Black women.
    Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease 11/2014; 202(11). DOI:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000198 · 1.69 Impact Factor
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