Ecological Studies of Stress and Coping
In the chapters on stress and coping, we emphasized the importance of the context and the difficulties in generalizing from laboratory research or from one field study to another in which a different stressor was encountered. First, we already have noted some of the inherent methodological problems in field studies of stress and aging. We usually do not have data on the individual prior to the experience of the stressor. Second, for many life events, it is not possible to compare young and old persons, either because a stressful life event commonly occurs only during a certain stage of life (e.g., unemployment in the young and retirement in the old) or the event has a different meaning or consequence for persons of different ages, as do divorce or death of a spouse. Third, older people are more likely to experience chronic stressors that may by exacerbated by other, more recent acute stressors. For example, in addition to her own chronic health condition, a wife may be burdened by a newer need to be a caregiver to her husband. Elder, George, and Shanahan (1996) allude to the paucity of data on the impact of chronic stressors on more recent burdens. While there have been studies in which the effects of a life event for a young and old person were compared, invariably, conclusions were drawn from separate studies in which young individuals were observed in a different context from that applied to older persons.
KeywordsSocial Support Ecological Study Adult Child Negative Life Event Care Recipient
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