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Studying Higher-Order Structure in the Characterization of Stressful Events Open Access

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A key predictor of children's mental health is stress. Research has used 4 different characteristics to describe the context of stressors: 1) independence/dependence, 2) domain, 3) type of threat, and 4) locus of event. These characteristics only have been examined separately. The degree of conceptual overlap between the 4 characteristics indicates the possibility of a higher-order structure. This dissertation examined if a) there is evidence of higher-order structure, b) it varies by individual characteristics, and c) it is stable over time, using data from a longitudinal study examining child and family adaptation following parental job loss. LCA was used to determine the higher-order structure. A 6-class solution provided the best fit. The 6 classes of events were 1) education, 2) health, 3) stressors within relationships, 4) loss of relationships, 5) happen to close ties, and 6) school relationships. The solution was not found to vary across SES, gender, age or ethnicity. There was partial but not complete replication across the two time points. A higher-order structure for stressful events should be examined in future research. These findings could help to integrate the stress and developmental literatures. Finally, this information could be used to design interventions to help children experiencing stress.

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