The Extent and Correlates of Stressors Experienced by At-Risk Youths in a Military-Style Residential Program

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The aim of this study was to assess lifetime exposure to stressful life events among youths residing in a military-style program for at-risk adolescents. Both the types of stressors reported and the associations between youths’ exposure to stressors and problematic behaviors such as substance use and misconduct were examined.


Exposure to stressful life events was assessed among 417 adolescents (87% male; 60% White; aged 16–19) using a self-report measure that allowed for the categorization of stressors into general types. Additional measures include self-reported substance use and program reports of youths’ disciplinary infractions.


Descriptive data about the nature and number of stressful life events reported by the total sample and demographic subgroups is reported. Regression models including race and cumulative stressful life events revealed that White race and greater exposure to stressors were associated with more frequent alcohol, X2 (3) = 37.99, p < 0.001, and marijuana, X2 (3) = 21.24, p < 0.001 use, as well as indicators of substance use-related problems. A model using these same variables predicted count of disciplinary infractions, X2 (3) = 180.39, p < 0.001. When types of infractions were examined individually, several race by stress interactions indicate that non-White youths with high exposure to stressors are particularly likely to receive infractions.


These findings provide descriptive information about stressors experienced by an understudied but at-risk population of youths. Additionally, they support the notion that history of exposure to stressful life events is related to externalizing behaviors during adolescence.

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Journal of Child and Family Studies

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