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July 1993

Sending Your Teenagers AwayControlled Stress Decreases Neurotic Vulnerability

Author Affiliations

From the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety Disorders, University of New South Wales at St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, Australia.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1993;50(7):585-589. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820190087009

Objective:  To study the effect of a controlled stressor on the rate of personality maturity.

Design:  Eighteen-month prospective controlled study.

Setting:  General community.

Intervention:  Experimental: Exposed to the stress of 12 months' intercultural experience. Control: Remained in usual environment.

Main Outcome Measure:  A measure of personality vulnerability/maturity derived from a canonical correlational combination of trait anxiety, locus of control, and defense style.

Results:  Exchange students exposed to the stressor made significantly greater gains in personality maturity (0.28 vs 0.03 SD: P≤.01) than did the control students matched on this measure at baseline.

Conclusion:  Exchange students exposed to the stress of living abroad showed a substantial decrease in vulnerability, which should decrease the risk of future neurotic disorders in this group