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An Evaluation of the Etiologic Role of Stressful Life-Change Events in Psychological Disorders

Joanne C. Gersten, Thomas S. Langner, Jeanne G. Eisenberg and Ora Simcha-Fagan
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 18, No. 3 (Sep., 1977), pp. 228-244
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136351
Page Count: 17
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An Evaluation of the Etiologic Role of Stressful Life-Change Events in Psychological Disorders
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Abstract

The hypothesis, suggested by associations found in previous research, that stressful gife events play a direct etiological role in psychological disorders was investigated. Preexistent methodological problems which permitted no clear inference regarding this role were treated. Competing hypotheses which posited that the life event-psychological disorder associations represented confounded relationships among events, pathology, and sociocultural factors were examined and controlled. Data used were from a survey of mothers of 732 children ranging in age from 11 to 23 years old, who constituted the follow-up sample collected five years later from an original sample of 1,034 children randomly selected from a cross-section of Manhattan households. Event scores differing as to the change and undesirability stress conceptions, each objectively and subjectively defined, were studied. No significant differences were found between correlations of event scores with behavioral pathology prior to and after the events. Multiple regression analyses which added event scores after controlling for stressful life processes demonstrated that events made no minimally meaningful contribution to the prediction of any disturbed behavior. The confounding hypothesis rather than the etiological hypothesis was supported and discussed.

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