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Clinical Psychology Review



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The stress generation hypothesis suggests that some individuals contribute more than others to the occurrence of dependent (self-generated), but not independent (fateful), stressful life events. This phenomenon is commonly studied in relation to psychiatric disorders, but effects are also driven by underlying psychological processes that extend beyond the boundaries of DSM-defined entities. This meta-analytic review of modifiable risk and protective factors for stress generation synthesizes findings from 70 studies with 39,693 participants (483 total effect sizes) from over 30 years of research. Findings revealed a range of risk factors that prospectively predict dependent stress with small-to-moderate meta-analytic effects (rs = 0.10-0.26). Negligible to small effects were found for independent stress (rs = 0.03-0.12), and, in a critical test for stress generation, most effects were significantly stronger for dependent compared to independent stress (βs = 0.04-0.15). Moderation analyses suggest effects of maladaptive interpersonal emotion regulation behaviors and repetitive negative thinking are stronger for interpersonal (versus non-interpersonal) stress; effects of repetitive negative thinking and excessive standards for self may be inflated by overreliance on self-report measures that fail to isolate psychological distress from objective experience. Findings have key implications for advancing stress generation theory and informing targets for intervention.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Thursday, June 05, 2025

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