How do young people experience stress? A qualitative examination of the indicators of distress and eustress in adolescence.

Extant literature describes stress as an unavoidable occurrence that can be bifurcated into both negative and positive aspects, known as distress and eustress, respectively. Despite this theoretical conceptualization, there are no measures of adolescent stress encompassing both aspects of the construct. In pursuing the creation of such a measure, the current study explored young people’s experience of stress, describing the phenomena adolescents identify as salient indicators of both distress and eustress. Semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 adolescents; thematic analysis of the transcripts focused on those indicators useful for discriminating between distress and eustress. In all, 6 key dimensions were proposed, along which eustress and distress were differentiated in adolescents: state of mind, function, perceived efficacy, affect, constitution, and connection. Although many of these identified phenomena were comparable with those proposed by the adult-focused literature, the participants demonstrated a range of distinctive perspectives. Unlike adults, the adolescents considered personal connections and self-regard as salient indicators of the stress response, whereas meaningfulness was not considered a pertinent phenomenon. These idiosyncrasies emphasize the inappropriateness of directly translating adult-focused literature to the adolescent context and robustly reiterate the need for a measure of stress that reflects and respects young people’s unique experiences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)