Stress and Support in the Lives of Kenyan Youth
Social scientists are increasingly interested in the life experiences of youth in developing countries. Moreover, positive youth developmentalists posit the need to understand well-being, strengths, and resiliency in addition to maladjustment, pathology, and deficits. Guided by relational cultural theory (Jordan, 2001; Miller and Stiver, 1997) and models linking stress to psychopathology (Bowman and Yehuda, 2004), the current study examines the associations between stress, psychological symptoms, and relational health in a sample of Kenyan youth (N = 254) using cross-sectional data from an ongoing preventative intervention. Multiple regression analyses were used to examine how well stress and relational health predicted psychological symptoms and MANOVA were used to test the hypotheses that gender differences exist in youth reports of psychological symptoms and exposure to stress. Findings indicated that exposure to certain types of stress were associated with psychological symptoms. Specifically, exposure to violence was correlated with depression. Number of stressful events, which captured exposure to many different types of stressors, was also correlated with depression. Although boys and girls did not report differences in exposure to stressors, small effects were found for differences in depression scores, with boys reporting greater levels of depression than their female peers. Gender moderated the relationship between stress and depression, with stress impacting female youth more than male youth. Although quality relationships with a peer and with the school community did not moderate the relationship between stress and depression in the present sample, main effects were found such that relational health was negatively correlated with depression. No significant effects were found for PTSD in any of the analyses. These results suggest implications for theory, research, clinical and community-based practice, and educational policy. Suggestions for improving validity and reliability in cross-cultural research are also included, with particular attention to measurement issues that arise when applying existing instruments among diverse populations.