Should Stress Generation Model Be Expanded?

Christopher C. Conway of the Department of Psychology at the University of California in Los Angeles recently led a study that provides evidence that the current stress generation model, which is used to assess the recurrence of specific mental health issues involving depressive states, could benefit from an expansion. In the past, the stress model has been used to analyze specific traits of anxiety problems and externalizing behaviors and how these issues cause stress that can lead to depression. But because people who struggle with depression often have co-existing psychological conditions, broadening the current stress model to include a general spectrum of internalizing and externalizing behaviors might allow researchers and clinicians to more accurately predict factors that are most likely to cause depression.

For his study, Conway assessed 815 teenagers who had been part of a longitudinal study examining the mental health of children born to mothers with a history of depression. When Conway evaluated the teens, he found that nearly half of them had been diagnosed with some form of depression in their lifetime. When he reassessed them at age 20, he discovered that the participants with internalizing behaviors had the most interpersonal stress. Specifically, those with depressive symptoms that included rumination, hopelessness, and need for approval exhibited the highest levels of relationship conflict with family members and others. The participants who showed more externalizing behaviors had more stress that was independent of internal conditions. These participants reported being stressed about things such as academic performance and finances rather than their relationships with others. Conway also discovered that the participants who had a history of panic were less likely to experience stress than the other participants. This suggests that panic, which is characterized by avoidance and sensitivity to anxiety, could provide a mechanism by which depressed individuals protect themselves from the negative effects of stress. Because so many individuals who struggle with depression also have other psychological problems, Conway believes that this study is just the first step in opening the door for the expansion of the stress generation mode. He added, “Further empirical work is needed to evaluate the explanatory power of hierarchical models of stress generation in other samples and to examine the specific effects of clinical syndromes not studied here (e.g., eating disorders, psychotic disorders).”

Conway, C. C., Hammen, C., & Brennan, P. A. (2012). Expanding stress generation theory: test of a transdiagnostic model. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027457

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  • Ree


    March 22nd, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    Seems that in some of these cases these kids are using one coping mechanism which could be harmful (panic) to ward off another symptom (stress) that could be equally bad. Wouldn’t it be noce if they were given some tools for coping which were actually helpful instead of things that all seem to in one way or another be detrimental to their health? Meditation and yoga are just two things that I have seen on here lately that could probably be of benefit to many of them, and with the younger generation you would think that they would be pretty open to trying some new things.

  • June


    March 23rd, 2012 at 4:15 AM

    Just because something worked in the past does not mean that we should therefore close our eyes to the possibility that it should be expanded and opened up down the road.

    Things change, society changes, so the way that we diagnose mental health issues has to be willing to change with the times too.

  • kendra s

    kendra s

    March 23rd, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    If it is expanding it for a true purpose then of course this needs to be done. Anything that can help open the eyes of researchers and clinicians that will help them to make a better diagnosis and design a treatment plan that will work in a positive and healing manner for the patient is something that should be explored. But seriously, I would think that most of the people who are skilled and trained in this area do not necessarily need an expanded model for them to be able to accurately pinpoint what is going on or to help them make the most accurate diagnosis. Most of the are going to be able to put 2 and 2 together to make sense of this, even if it is not something that is always going to be specifically spelled out to them.

  • Peter K

    Peter K

    March 25th, 2012 at 6:17 AM

    Stress,panic,depression are all things that can bring a person down and not let them enjoy things as they were meant to be.Sad thing is that people continue to suffer from these things and some of them do not even seek help and some even do not even know they have problems with these things.

    Awareness,easy availability of help and willingness to stay free from these is what is required.

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