Emerging adults' lived experience of formative family stress: The family's lasting influence

Carmen R. Valdez, Tom Chavez, Julie Woulfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In this article, we use a phenomenology framework to explore emerging adults' formative experiences of family stress. Fourteen college students participated in a qualitative interview about their experience of family stress. We analyzed the interviews using the empirical phenomenological psychology method. Participants described a variety of family stressors, including parental conflict and divorce, physical or mental illness, and emotional or sexual abuse by a family member. Two general types of parallel processes were essential to the experience of family stress for participants. First, the family stressor was experienced in shifts and progressions reflecting the young person's attempts to manage the stressor, and second, these shifts and progressions were interdependent with deeply personal psychological meanings of self, sociality, physical and emotional expression, agency, place, space, project, and discourse. We describe each of these parallel processes and their subprocesses, and conclude with implications for mental health practice and research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1102
Number of pages14
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • families
  • lived experience
  • phenomenology
  • stress / distress
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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