Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Pre-print. Kort-Butler, Lisa A. 2020. “The Stress Mechanisms of Adolescent Physical, Mental, and Behavioral Health.” Pp. 74-89 in Routledge International Handbook of Delinquency and Health, Michael G. Vaughn, Christopher P. Salas-Wright, and Dylan B. Jackson (eds.). New York: Routledge.


Copyright © 2020 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


Although the mechanisms are complex, stress is a risk factor for compromised physical, mental, and behavioral health in adolescence. The stress paradigm posits a system of relationships among social structures, stressors, personal and social resources, and health outcomes, offering a framework for understanding how adolescents’ life problems and the means to cope with them affect well-being. This chapter reviews the theoretical underpinnings of the stress paradigm, drawing on the stress process model and general strain theory. The chapter briefly reviews the biological underpinnings of stress and the role of brain development. Then, the chapter focuses on the social aspects of the adolescent stress experience, including the nature of stressors, key domains of adolescent stress, and the process of stress proliferation. Next, the chapter details the mechanisms linking stressors to health outcomes, including the stress appraisal process and the role of personal and social resources (e.g., coping styles; self-esteem and mastery; social support) in shaping adolescents’ responses to stressful experiences. The chapter concludes with the implications of the stress paradigm for future research and policy in adolescent health and delinquency.