Positive Life Events and Adolescent Emotional Distress: In Search of Protective-Interactive Processes Academic Article uri icon


  • Two hypotheses were examined regarding the protective effect of positive life events on emotional distress in adolescence. The first hypothesis was that positive events include a valence-related aspect and an event-related aspect. The event-related aspect is shared with negative events, and hence suppresses the protective effect of positive events on emotional distress. The second hypothesis was that positive events buffer the effect of negative events on distress, but that this stress buffering effect is difficult to detect because it is relatively small. These hypotheses were tested in a sample of 603 adolescents in their freshmen year of high school. During the first week of school, we assessed participants' levels of depression and anxiety. Sixteen weeks later, we again assessed their depression and anxiety, as well as the number of positive and negative events they experienced since the beginning of school. Structural Equation Modeling analyses yielded support for the suppressed/direct effect of positive events, and for a small but statistically significant stress buffering effect of positive interpersonal, but not success-related, events. Results suggest that positive events are comprised of both elements of risk and resilience, and encourage the introduction of "dosage considerations" into stress buffering research.

publication date

  • January 1, 2002