Stress and psychopathology in children and adolescents: Is there evidence of specificity?

Susan D. McMahon, Kathryn E. Grant, Bruce E. Compas, Audrey E. Thurm, Sydney Ey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

236 Scopus citations


Research on the relations between specific stressors and specific psychological outcomes among children and adolescents is reviewed. Specificity, the notion that particular risk factors are uniquely related to particular outcomes is discussed from a theoretical perspective, and models of specificity are described. Several domains of stressors are examined from a specificity framework (e.g., exposure to violence, abuse, and divorce/marital conflict) in relation to broad-band outcomes of internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Studies that tested for specificity conducted within the past 15 years are examined, and definitional problems are highlighted. Little evidence for specificity was found. Methodological problems in the literature and the lack of theory-driven specificity research are discussed, and directions for future research are identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-133
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Psychopathology
  • Specificity
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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