Early Life Stress and Stress Generation in Recurrent Depression

Doctoral Dissertation


In an extension of Hammen’s (1991) stress generation hypothesis, the present study sought to understand what types of people who become depressed are most vulnerable for becoming interpersonal stress generators. This paper examined the phenomenon of stress generation as it relates to an individual’s history of early life stress. Ninety-seven adults diagnosed with major depressive disorder participated in this study. Participants were administered the Structured Clinical Interview for DSMIV Axis I Disorders (SCID) and the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule (LEDS) to assess past depressive episodes, stressful life events, and early life stress. Results suggested that early life stress, especially in the form sexual and physical abuse, has an impact on the types of stress that an individual experiences as an adult. The experience of childhood physical abuse appears to be the most deleterious in terms of experiencing both severe and interpersonal life events (e.g., divorce), whereas the experience of sexual abuse appears to have an impact only on the experience of severe events. From a stress generation perspective, these results partially support the notion of early life stress, namely physical abuse, as a risk factor for stress generation.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-12072011-182236

Author Heather L Holleman
Advisor Scott Monroe
Contributor Scott Monroe, Committee Chair
Contributor Jennifer Burke Lefever, Committee Member
Contributor Kristin Valentino, Committee Member
Contributor Thomas Whitman, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2011-11-21

Submission Date 2011-12-07
  • United States of America

  • early adversity

  • recurrent depression

  • life stress

  • child maltreatment

  • stress generation

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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