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July 1993

Sending Your Teenagers AwayControlled Stress Decreases Neurotic Vulnerability

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