Residence Patterns and Household Characteristics as Moderators of Adolescent Distress in the Context of Rapid Change

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

"Medical Anthropology at the Intersections": An International Conference of he Society for Medical Anthropology

Conference Location

Yale University, New Haven, CT


The specific nature of the relationship between sociocultural transitions and adolescent distress remains elusive. This paper focuses on the complex interactive influence of residential patterns and household characteristics on adolescent mental health using epidemiological data on depression, anxiety disorders, and substance use among Samoan secondary school students (n = 874). Many have argued that adolescent mental distress and maladaptive behavior (e.g., suicidality, substance abuse) emerges from disjunctures between locally novel, adult social roles and social worlds in which such expectations are often unobtainable. Although ethnographic and epidemiological data provides some support for this “blocked opportunity” model, the data also points to considerable variability, including some instances in which residential shifts from overseas to Samoa may correlate with lower prevalence of many forms of anxiety. Such findings suggest the complex nature of factors moderating the impact of globalization and sociocultural change, and it forces us to rethink simplistic models of the relationship between adolescents and their developmental niches in the context of sociocultural change.


migration, social change, mental health


Anthropology | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Substance Abuse and Addiction

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