, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 301-327

Protective processes in adolescence: Matching stressors with social resources

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Abstract

Working within the “matching theory” of social supports, this research focuses on depressed mood and examines how resilience to stress during adolescence is shaped by developmental constraints on the use of support for coping with problems in the family, peer, and personal arenas. The sample is 1,036 adolescents systematically drawn from 3 community high schools in the Boston area. Predictions center on the efficacy of peer and family supports, and two intraindividual protective factors: sense of mastery and sense of social integration. Findings indicate little evidence of cross-domain stress buffering (where family support buffers the effects of peer stress on mood, and vice versa), suggesting that family and peer domains are more distinct during this stage of development. Protective effects for friendship stresses are evidenced, but boys are more able than girls to marshal their personal and support resources in managing friendship problems. Discussion centers on matching theory and the role of development in shaping coping responses to stress.

This research was supported by the Grant R)1 H42909, Stress and Mental Health: Adolescence to Early Adulthood, from the National Institutes of Mental Health. A previous version of this paper was presented at the Fifth Biennial Meetings of the Society for Research on Adolescence, February 10–13, 1994, San Diego, California. We thank Mary Ellen Colten for helpful critique and Virginia Mackay, Carol Cosenza, and Lin Bin for their secretarial and research assistance. We also thank the three anonymous reviewers for helpful critique of earlier drafts.