The Diathesis-Stress Model explains how the combination of genetic predisposition (diathesis) and stressful conditions (stress) can result in mental or physical illnesses.
Diathesis Stress Model is not a frequent term seen on a parenting blog. This is an essential notion to grasp for parents who wish to create resilient children. Let’s take a look at how stress might influence our children’s mental health.
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What Is Diathesis
Diathesis refers to a person’s proclivity or vulnerability to a medical ailment, which can be either psychologicalal or physical in nature. The word was initially used in psychiatry to examine schizophrenia, and then subsequently depression.
A diathesis can be caused by a biological genetic inheritance (hereditary), a susceptibility caused by early-life environmental stresses (environmental), or a vulnerability caused by the combination of hereditary and environmental variables (hereditary-environmental).
Diathesis Stress Model
The Stress Vulnerability Model
The Diathesis Stress Model explains how the combination of genetic predisposition and environmental stress may lead to disease.
Predisposition is a weakness. When a vulnerable person is exposed to particular types of stress, they are more prone to acquire psychiatric illnesses or experience maladjustment. As a result, the Diathesis-Stress Model is sometimes referred to as the Stress-Vulnerability Model.
Normally, if a person does not have a predisposition to a condition, it will require a very high amount of stress to cause a disorder. However, if the individual is highly vulnerable, it will take less stress to develop the condition.
Dual Risk Model
Because stress plays a significant role in the development of psychologicalal disturbances and mental illnesses, the Diathesis Stress Model is also known as the Dual Risk Model 1.
Some stressors, such as childhood trauma, are risk factors. They can reduce an individual’s risk of acquiring mental illnesses and make later stresses more likely to cause the disorders.
As a result, stress serves a dual purpose in this model:
Early stress has a formative effect on children, increasing their susceptibility to psychiatric problems.
Later stress acts as a precipitating or triggering factor, initiating the onset of the diseases.
Diathesis and Stress Interactions
The existence of both predispositions and stress, according to the Diathesis-Stress Model, causes mental health problems.
This is one explanation for why some people acquire mental illnesses in the face of adversity and others do not.
At first appearance, this paradigm indicates that diathesis and stress are two distinct traits that can exist independently of one another. The connection between vulnerability and stress was evident in an early version of the Diathesis-Stress Model: Stress triggered the diathesis, resulting in the disorder’s emergence.
However, in recent years, researchers have found a number of ways in which diathesis and stress may interact and impact one another.
Stress Can Be Caused by Diathesis
One possible connection between diathesis and stress is that the propensity may induce or influence stress experience. That is, some vulnerabilities may enhance one’s chances of experiencing a stressful event that initiates a condition.
A genetic feature, for example, may cause a person to interact with life in such a manner that it generates a stressor that precipitates the disease.
In certain people who are susceptible to depressive symptoms, this bi-directional impact can be noticed. These people may experience irritation, tiredness, and social disengagement, which can lead to issues in their interpersonal relationships and at work.
If those issues lead to the loss of a close relationship or a career, those events create stresses that precipitate the beginning of major depressive disorder.
In this case, stress is not a random occurrence, but rather the result of having a vulnerability.
Another form of interaction is when a person’s vulnerabilities change their sense of stress.
For example, the person may interpret a routine encounter as a high-stress event. The vulnerabilities are therefore basically a component of the stress.
Diathesis Can Cause Stress Too
While stress may cause diathesis, diathesis can also cause stress. Environmental stress might lead a person to develop a previously unnoticed temperament.
According to the Depression “Scar” Hypothesis, the first experience of serious depression may cause a person to develop negative thinking habits, which may contribute to recurrent episodes of depression.
Scientists have discovered another mechanism for stressful life experiences to generate biological vulnerability in recent years.
They discovered that particular environmental variables may alter gene expression via epigenetic mechanisms. Such changes are unrelated to a person’s genetic make-up.
That is, even if a person is not born with a biological predisposition, certain social circumstances might modify the individual’s DNA, resulting in a diathesis.
Diathesis And Parenting
The Diathesis-Stress Model is a complex psychologicalal theory that is constantly developing as scientists acquire fresh data.
So, what should parents take away from this?
First, we’ll look at how this model might help explain why some children’s are deemed more resilient than others.
When we believe that our children are not resilient, we must remember that the seeming lack of resilience is the result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and communal variables. It’s not because our kids are weak or obstinate.
Second, the Diathesis Stress hypothesis adds to the growing body of data demonstrating that tough love parenting, which focuses on causing needless stress in children, is ineffective.
Tough love not only may not function in the manner that parents want it to, i.e. toughening up their child, but it may also do harm by accelerating the development of psychopathology.
- 2.Hertenstein MJ, Dean RS, Patanella D, et al. Diathesis-stress Model. In: Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development. Springer US; 2011:502-503. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-79061-9_845
- 3.Monroe SM, Simons AD. Diathesis-stress theories in the context of life stress research: Implications for the depressive disorders. Psychological Bulletin. 1991:406-425. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.110.3.406
- 4.Ingram RE, Luxton DD. Vulnerability-Stress Models. In: Development of Psychopathology: A Vulnerability-Stress Perspective. Sage Publications, Inc.; 2005:32-46.
- 5.Rohde P, Lewinsohn PM, Seeley JR. Are people changed by the experience of having an episode of depression? A further test of the scar hypothesis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 1990:264-271. doi:10.1037/0021-843x.99.3.264