Stressful Life Events and their Trajectories among Midlife Women: Observations from the Seattle Midlife Women's Health Study
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Purpose: This dissertation examines the challenges and stressful life events of women during their years of midlife characterizing women using age, menopausal transition status, ethnicity, income, education, marital status, parental status, and employment. Background: Midlife is a time of increased responsibilities for women concerning multiple roles such as taking care of children, caring for elderly parents, managing households, and working outside the home. These multiple roles put midlife women at risk for increased stress with little time for themselves in order to relieve stress. Methods: The sample used in this study is part of a larger study, The Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study, a longitudinal study spanning 23 years. This dissertation employed a summative content analysis using data which examined challenges of midlife women over 15 years of participating in the study and a growth curve model centered at age modeling total, undesirable, and desirable stressful life events data over the past ten years. The growth curves were characterized using the following demographic variables as predictors: education, gross family income, employment, race/ethnicity, marital status, being a parent and menopausal transition stage in a multiple logistic regression. Results: Summative content analysis of the most challenging aspects of midlife revealed the ten most frequently reported challenges as Multiple Co-Occurring Stressors, Divorce/Breaking up with a partner, Health problems of self, Death of Parents, Partner’s Health, Parenting Challenges, Marriage/New Partner, Stressful Job/Career, Financial Challenges, and Existential Issues. The best predictor for the Growth Mixture Model of the Mean Undesirable Impact Scores was education, so that women with more years of education rated the impact of stressful life events lower than did women who had less education. Ratings of impact scores decreased over time, until the age of 50-55 years. Demographic variables, including education, gross family income, employment, race/ethnicity, marital status, being a parent and menopausal transition stage were not significant predictors for the Mean Impact of Total Life Event Stress or Desirable Life Event Stress.
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