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Chronic and Episodic Interpersonal Stress as Statistically Unique Predictors of Depression in Two Samples of Emerging Adults


Few studies comprehensively evaluate which types of life stress are most strongly associated with depressive episode onsets, over and above other forms of stress, and comparisons between acute and chronic stress are particularly lacking. Past research implicates major (moderate to severe) stressful life events (SLEs), and to a lesser extent, interpersonal forms of stress; research conflicts on whether dependent or independent SLEs are more potent, but theory favors dependent SLEs. The present study used 5 years of annual diagnostic and life stress interviews of chronic stress and SLEs from 2 separate samples (Sample 1 N = 432; Sample 2 N = 146) transitioning into emerging adulthood; 1 sample also collected early adversity interviews. Multivariate analyses simultaneously examined multiple forms of life stress to test hypotheses that all major SLEs, then particularly interpersonal forms of stress, and then dependent SLEs would contribute unique variance to major depressive episode (MDE) onsets. Person-month survival analysis consistently implicated chronic interpersonal stress and major interpersonal SLEs as statistically unique predictors of risk for MDE onset. In addition, follow-up analyses demonstrated temporal precedence for chronic stress; tested differences by gender; showed that recent chronic stress mediates the relationship between adolescent adversity and later MDE onsets; and revealed interactions of several forms of stress with socioeconomic status (SES). Specifically, as SES declined, there was an increasing role for noninterpersonal chronic stress and noninterpersonal major SLEs, coupled with a decreasing role for interpersonal chronic stress. Implications for future etiological research were discussed.

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