Links among the Self, Stress, and Psychological Distress during Emerging Adulthood: Comparing Three Theoretical Models

Moran Schiller, Constance C. Hammen, Golan Shahar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: The authors tested three theoretical models linking self, stress, and psychopathological distress in emerging adulthood. The vulnerability model posits that self-concept pathology leads to distress. The scarring model postulates that distress and stress lead to self-concept pathology. The stress generation model stipulates that distress and self-concept pathology lead to the experience of episodic and chronic life stress. Change in ruminative brooding was examined as a potential mechanism in all models. One-hundred and seventy Israeli freshmen (M[age]= 23.19, 68% females) were followed up three times over the duration of one year. Distress and six dimensions of the self (self-criticism, self-concept inadequacy, hated sense of self, self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, and self-concept clarity) were assessed repeatedly. Acute and chronic stresses were measured at Time 2 using the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Stress Interview. Distress prospectively predicted self-concept pathology pertaining to all of the dimensions, except self-concept clarity, which was adversely affected by chronic stress. Change in ruminative brooding mediated scarring for self-criticism, a hated self, and self-concept clarity. Low self-esteem emerged as a powerful chronic stress generator. Self-concept clarity was as the only dimension leading to change in distress. In emerging adulthood, psychological distress and—to a lesser extent—chronic stress might “scar” the self.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)302-326
Number of pages25
JournalSelf and Identity
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 May 2016


  • Self
  • distress
  • emerging-adulthood
  • scarring hypothesis
  • stress

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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