A recent study followed a group of teens in their transition to adulthood, a time when stress is greatly felt.
Results showed that different stressors caused different reactions in the subjects.
Lorena Estrada-Martinez, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, led an investigation into how stress can influence violent behavior and depression.
For the study, researchers followed 604 African-American adolescents enrolled in the Flint Adolescent Study from the 9th grade into adulthood.
Stressors that increased the risk for violent behavior were racial discrimination and constant exposure to daily stress.
Racial discrimination, daily stress, financial stress and neighborhood stress were all contributors to depressive symptoms.
Dr. Estrada-Martinez said, “Results indicate that stressors do not equally impact the risk for violent behavior.”
“African-American youth who were at greatest risk for engaging in violent behaviors while transitioning into adulthood were those who experienced higher levels of racial discrimination in addition to general daily stressors.”
The surprise in the results had to do with the stressors linked to depressive symptoms. Financial strain and neighborhood stress were not associated with violent behavior, but rather increased depressive symptoms.
Authors also not that the amount of stressors being handled at one time can increase violent behavior risk.
Dr. Estrada-Martinez said, “Coping with two or more stressors simultaneously also significantly increased the risk for violent behaviors. This risk was most pronounced for those dealing with five stressors simultaneously.”
Due to the findings that point to racial discrimination as a major contributing factor for violent behavior, the authors recommended policy makers do everything they can to eliminate racial discrimination.
Dr. Estrada-Martinez said, “It’s important to note that racial discrimination serves as a lightning rod for violent interactions and must be eliminated from society at the structural level.”
This study was published in the July issue of the Journal Of Youth And Adolescence. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were reported.