Published Papers - Abstract 221

Bell S & Lee C. Does timing and sequencing of transitions to adulthood make a difference? Stress, smoking and physical activity among young Australian women. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2006; 13(3): 265-274

The major changes of the transition to adulthood are argued to be stressful, and health-related behaviors such as smoking and physical activity may be adopted, consolidated, or abandoned at this time. On the other hand, research has suggested that the normative transitions of emerging adulthood, although involving considerable change, may be associated with low stress because they are perceived as both positive and normal at this life stage. This article examines relations between the timing and sequencing of life transitions and stress and health-related behaviors, focusing on the transition to young adulthood among Australian women. A total of 853 women ages 22 to 27 provided information about the timing and sequencing of 6 life transitions: moving out of the home, stopping full-time education, starting full-time work, having the first live-in relationship, marriage, and motherhood—and stress, smoking, and physical activity. Most had moved out of the home, stopped full-time education, and started full-time work, but only 14% had undertaken all 6 transitions. Overall, 70% of participants had made transitions “in order.” Overall, the findings suggest that the relations between timing and sequencing of transitions, and indicators of health, are moderate for smoking, but small for stress and for physical activity. These effects remained after controlling for socioeconomic status of the participants’ families of origin. Matching current social norms for the timing and sequencing of life changes maybe of less importance for women’s well-being than is commonly believed. Although the significant relations between early or “out of order” transitions and smoking areof concern, the smaller relations with stress and with sedentariness suggest that such transitions may have limited negative consequences, and support the view that individuals are active in choosing the life path that is appropriate for them and their circumstances.