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Violent Behavior: A Measure of Emotional Upset?

Debra Umberson, Kristi Williams and Kristin Anderson
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 43, No. 2, Selecting Outcomes for the Sociology of Mental Health: Issues of Measurement and Dimensionality (Jun., 2002), pp. 189-206
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3090196
Page Count: 18
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Violent Behavior: A Measure of Emotional Upset?
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Abstract

Over the past ten years, sociologists have broadened their view of what counts as an appropriate measure of mental health. This reflects a growing recognition that individuals express emotional upset in various ways. For example, some individuals are more likely to become depressed in response to stress while others are more likely to drink heavily. Contemporary studies often include measures of "internalizing" (i.e., more feeling-based measures) and "externalizing" (i.e., more behavioral measures) styles of psychopathology, especially when studying group differences in mental health. Alcohol abuse is the classic measure of externalized distress in sociological research. In this paper, we present a theoretical argument and supporting empirical evidence to argue that violent behavior should be included as a measure of externalized distress in response to stress. Our study suggests that violent behavior is a more likely response to stress among individuals with particular coping and appraisal tendencies. Specifically, violent behavior may be a more likely response to stress among individuals who tend to appraise situations as threatening while also repressing any emotional response to stress. We contend that, since some groups may be more likely than others to respond to stress with violence, it is particularly important to include measures of violent behavior when studying group difference in distress.

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