Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Kim Shuey William Avison


Utilizing the stress process paradigm and the life course perspective, the present study examines whether and how experiencing economic strain and family instability in adolescence has long-term effects on depressed affect (one component of psychological distress) in young adulthood. Using the 1992-1994 and 2000-2002 waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), this research focuses on children age 10-17 in 1992-1994 who also participated in the 2000-2002 follow-up survey as adults, aged 18 and above (N=868). Results from multiple regression models suggest that both economic strain and family instability in adolescence may impair individual’s development of self-esteem and subsequently lead to higher levels of depressed affect in young adulthood. Multiple pathways to depressed affect in adulthood are also identified within the life course stress process model, involving adult social statuses, family support and self-esteem. Results suggest that social programs geared toward helping adolescents who face economic strain and family instability should pay more attention to protecting and promoting the development of self-esteem.