STRESSFUL LIFE EVENTS IN YOUNG ADULTHOOD
The stress process model as outlined by Pearlin (1989) and Wheaton (1985) posits that acute stressors such as major traumas or life events (death of a loved one, unemployment) tax the ability of a person to respond and may adversely affect their mental health. Although much research focuses on the mediators or the outcomes of stressors, it is particularly important to study exposure to stressful life events (SLEs) during the transition to adulthood because those events occurring early in life shape resilience or vulnerability later in the life course, and hence have important implications for stratification processes (Hayward and Gorman 2004; Masten 1990). From a life course perspective, the transition to adulthood includes many turning points during which the direction of one's life can change, and those turning points can lead to later resilience or vulnerability (Elder 1999; Elder and Conger 2000). For example, recent research has shown that youth experience higher rates of depressive symptoms than older adults (Adkins et al. 2009) and that the consequences of early life depression can be quite serious for both later life mental health and for various important outcomes related to stratification, such as education and occupational attainment (George 2007). During the transition from adolescence to adulthood, exposure to stressors could mediate the noted relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and mental health. In other words, lower SES may be associated with greater exposure to stressors, hence, explaining part of the SES-mental health association (Gore et al. 2007). As a result, studying which factors increase vulnerability to SLEs or reduce exposure to them is a crucial component of understanding religion and stratification.
Although the stress process model emphasizes that individuals and groups differ in their vulnerability to stressors, most stress research presumes that stressors are exogenous, or out of a person's control. However, as youth move from adolescence to young adulthood, their social context, such as friendships and romantic relationships, is formed to a greater extent by their choices (Harris et al. 2010). In turn, one's social networks and choices regarding friendships, romance, and how to use free time could potentially influence exposure to those SLEs that are partially under one's control (i.e., unwanted pregnancy) compared to those SLEs that are exogenous (such as death of a loved one). Hence, during the transition to adulthood, it is important to examine how people's choices and changing social relations influence SLEs.
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