Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 41, Issue 12, pp 1600–1612 | Cite as

Stressors in Multiple Life-Domains and the Risk for Externalizing and Internalizing Behaviors Among African Americans During Emerging Adulthood

  • Lorena M. Estrada-Martínez
  • Cleopatra H. Caldwell
  • José A. Bauermeister
  • Marc A. Zimmerman
Empirical Research


Behavioral and mental health outcomes have been associated with experiencing high levels of stress. Yet, little is known about the link between the nature of stressors, their accumulation over time, and the risk for externalizing and internalizing outcomes. Compared to the general population, African Americans are exposed to a disproportionate number of stressors beginning earlier in life. Incorporating Agnew’s General Strain Theory into the study of stress, this study examined whether different kinds of stressors are equally salient in the risk for violent behaviors and depressive symptoms among African Americans transitioning into young adulthood. It further examined the effects of the accumulation of stressors in different life domains and their effect on risks. This study utilized data from an African American subsample of an ongoing longitudinal study that followed 604 adolescents (53 % females) from 9th grade into adulthood. Multilevel growth curve models were used to examine how changes in stressors across multiple life domains related to violent behaviors and depressive symptoms. We found that continued exposure to perceived daily stress and racial discrimination stress increased the risk for violent behaviors during young adulthood, and exhibited a nonlinear relationship between the accumulation of stressors and risk for violence. Moreover, we found that exposure to perceived daily stress, financial stress, neighborhood stress, and racial discrimination stress increased the risk of depressive symptoms and led to a linear relationship between the accumulation of stressors and risk for depressive symptoms. Findings suggest identifiable stressors that can persist over time to influence risks at young adulthood.


Stressors Emerging adulthood African Americans Violence Depression 



This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to the University of Michigan School of Public Health (Grant Number R01-DA07484; Principal Investigator Marc A. Zimmerman, Ph.D.). Dr. Bauermeister is supported by a NIH Career Development Award (K01-MH087242). We would like to acknowledge the Prevention Research Center, Emily Pingel, MPH, and Kathy Welch at the University of Michigan and Megan Foster at Washington University in St. Louis for their contributions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorena M. Estrada-Martínez
    • 1
  • Cleopatra H. Caldwell
    • 3
  • José A. Bauermeister
    • 4
  • Marc A. Zimmerman
    • 2
  1. 1.George Warren Brown School of Social WorkWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Health Behavior and Health EducationUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Health Behavior and Health EducationUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Health Behavior and Health EducationUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA

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