Published Papers - Abstract 199

Bell S & Lee C. Transitions in emerging adulthood and stress among young Australian women. International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 2008; 15(4): 280-288

Background: Emerging adulthood involves major transitions in social roles and high levels of stress, which may affect later health. Purpose: To examine cross-sectionally and longitudinally the relationships of stress to roles in four life domains - residential independence from family of origin, employment, relationships, and motherhood – among young adult women. Method: 8,749 young women participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health provided data at Survey 1, aged 18-23, and Survey 2, aged 22-27. Results: Contrary to expectation, major life transitions were associated with low and reducing levels of stress. Cross-sectionally, living independently, not being a student, being married, and being a mother were associated with the lowest stress. Normative transitions such as moving out of home, finding work, or motherhood, were associated with no change in stress, while marrying was associated with a decrease in stress. Three types of transition were associated with increases in stress: non-normative transitions to more “adolescent” statuses, no transition; and transitions occurring earlier than normative. Conclusion: High levels of stress at this age are associated, with unusual changes, delays in changing, or changing earlier than one’s peers. The normative transitions of young adulthood are not associated with high levels of stress.