The effects of childhoood family stress on women's depressive symptoms: A life course approach

Kay B. Forest, Phyllis Moen, Donna Dempster-McClain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study uses a life course approach to observe the interaction between stressful childhood events and recent undesirable events to predict depressive symptoms in women. Data are from a community sample (N = 205) of adult daughters from the Cornell Women's Roles Project, aged 26-58 years. Results indicate that women who experienced mild stressors during childhood are less likely to have depressive responses to undesirable events than are those who did not have stressful family backgrounds. This buffering influence appears to be partially mediated through a woman's belief in her control over external events. In the absence of childhood strains, a close father-daughter relationship during childhood may also teach women protective mastery skills. Overall, findings suggest that women's differing depressive responses to undesirable events follow a developmental pathway beginning with early childhood experiences. We suggest that the milder childhood stressors measured in this study stimulated an adaptive family environment from which these women were able to garner life course coping strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-100
Number of pages20
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1996

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