Degree Granting Department
Psychological and Social Foundations
adolescents, complete mental health, life satisfaction, social support, stressors
Examinations of stress in relation to adolescent mental health have not often utilized a comprehensive definition of psychological functioning. Recent literature has found support for the importance of examining optimal psychological functioning as the presence of high life satisfaction in addition to low psychopathology (Antamarian, Huebner, Hills, & Valois, 2011; Suldo & Shaffer, 2008). Most research on stress has focused on either major stressful events or chronic environmental stressors; further research is needed on the psychological model of stress, which conceptualizes stress as involving both environmental events and one's cognitive appraisals of the stressor. The current longitudinal study determined how multiple types of stress (accumulation of stressful life events, chronic stressors in social relationships, global perceived stress level) are associated with mental health (i.e., psychopathology and life satisfaction) over a one year period. Additionally, this study explored whether perceptions of social support from various sources (i.e., parents, classmates, teachers) act as a protective factor in the relationship between stress and later mental health outcomes. Data collection for Time 1 occurred in the Fall 2010, and was part of a larger on-going research project involving 500 students from grade 9 - 11. Time 2 data collection occurred during the Fall of 2011 and included 425 of those students, now in grades 10-12. Analyses included multiple regression to examine both the overall contribution of stress on mental health outcomes (life satisfaction, internalizing psychopathology, externalizing psychopathology) as well as the unique contributions of various types of stress. Additional regression analyses explored whether social support from various sources acts as a buffer for students that experience stress from later increases in psychopathology or declines in life satisfaction. Results revealed that the combination of Time 1 mental health variables and all forms of initial stress accounted for the most amount of variance (45%) in Time 2 internalizing problems and the least amount of variance in Time 2 externalizing problems (13%). In all cases, the largest predictor of Time 2 mental health was initial levels of mental health. The only stressor that appeared as a unique predictor of Time 2 mental health was stress in the student-teacher relationship, which accounted for a significant amount of variance in Time 2 externalizing problems. Further regression analyses found that parent and peer support were critical in predicting later mental health (i.e., exerted main effects). These analyses identified trends in the data in which parent and teacher support acted as buffers in the relationships between some forms of stress and later mental health. Implications for school psychologists and future directions for research are discussed.
Scholar Commons Citation
Chappel, Ashley, "A Longitudinal Investigation of Stress, Complete Mental Health, and Social Support among High School Students" (2012). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.