Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Stress Inoculation Training as a Preventative Intervention for High School Youths

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Stress Inoculation Training as a Preventative Intervention for High School Youths

Article excerpt

This study examined the effectiveness of a school-based prevention intervention to reduce the incidence of negative emotional arousal and other psychological problems in adolescents in response to stress. The prevention program was modeled after a stress inoculation training program and included a variety of cognitive behavioral interventions (i.e., cognitive restructuring, problem solving, anxiety management training). Reductions on anxiety, depression, and anger self-report scales were noted after training, especially in youths who were classified as being high in emotional arousal, and these gains were maintained at follow-up. The waiting list control group showed similar improvements after they received training. Improvements in grade point average, school attendance, physical health problems, and self-reports of total, daily, and major negative stress events were not found, except for some within-group improvements at follow-up.

The occurrence of stress events, either major life or daily stressors, has long been associated with psychological and health problems in adolescents (Compas, 1987; Johnson, 1986). For some youths, stress events occur in the form of normative developmental phases (e.g., transition to high school, puberty). For others, non-normative events which are not common to all adolescents are the source of stress. When developmental changes and stress events occur simultaneously, or when daily stressors occur in combination or in a cumulative manner, then the impact on adolescents seems to increase (Compas, Davis, & Forsythe, 1985; Johnson, 1986; Petersen, Kennedy, & Sullivan, 1991).

The identified negative consequences of stress in terms of psychological functioning for adolescents have included anxiety (Johnson & McCutcheon, 1980), delinquent behavior (Vaux & Ruggiero, 1983), depression and suicide (Crook & Raskin, 1975; Lempers, Clarke-Lempers, & Simons, 1989), decreased levels of self-esteem (Greenberg, Siegel, & Leitch, 1983), and poor school performance (Fontana & Dovidio, 1984). While the relationship between stress events and maladjustment is evident, the variables related to the development of some psychological problems over others in response to stress are unclear (Compas, 1987).

The effects of stress can be tempered or enhanced by person variables such as coping skills (Colten & Gore, 1991). The relative impact of developmental changes, life stress events, and daily stressors depends on youths' perception of these events and perceived coping skills. Previous research suggests that emotional regulation efforts through cognitive strategies and problem-focused coping on the part of youths are important for managing or adapting to stressful events (Compas, 1987).

Adolescents who make cognitive and behavioral coping attempts to reduce sources of stress and negative emotional arousal appear capable of decreasing the negative impact of a variety of stressful events (Compas, Malcarne, & Fondacaro, 1988). Intervention procedures which train cognitive behavioral coping strategies might prove useful for youths who have difficulty managing stress reactions. While interventions have been developed to help adolescents and older children cope with specific stressors (Jason & Burrows, 1983; Pedro- Carroll & Cowen, 1985), most cognitive behavioral training procedures focusing on stress reduction have been geared toward adults (Johnson, 1986; Meichenbaum, 1985). Recently, however, some research has suggested that cognitive behavioral procedures show promise in helping adolescents cope with emotional arousal in response to stress (Hains & Szyjakowski, 1990; Hains, 1992).

The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a high schoolbased prevention intervention to reduce the incidence of negative emotional arousal in adolescents in response to stress. The program was an adaptation of stress inoculation training (Meichenbaum & Deffenbacher, 1988). …

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