Stress and resource dynamics in social interactions and across analysis levels

Leader: Dario Spini
Support: Mattia Vacchiano

This cross-cutting issue explores the dynamics of stress and resilience among interdependent individuals or between individuals and the normative and institutional context in which they are embedded. The agenda centres on four research themes:

1. Interdependent individuals and vulnerability

The first theme looks at how and to what extent events in a person’s life affect the vulnerability of people around that person. Studies can attempt to address this issue by examining the following questions: How can family and peer interactions alleviate or increase the burden of vulnerability? What role is played by social networks and social groups in creating vulnerability or resilience? How does living alone or in a couple influence the vulnerability of individuals in the first and second halves of their lives?

2. Institutions and welfare state policies

Another question of interest is how institutions and policies generate resources and stressors in the lives of individuals. For instance, do specific training and job trajectories lead to greater social integration at different stages of the life course? Do rules and policies exclude those who should benefit from them, and when and how does this affect their lives? What institutions and policies effectively reinforce resilience, or on the contrary generate more vulnerability across the life course?

3. Normative climates

These are defined as the prevailing norms, values and attitudes to which individuals are exposed in their everyday lives, and can be conceptualised at different levels of analysis. This third theme aims to explore how the interactions between different contextual layers impact an individual’s stresses and resources. Relevant research questions that may be asked are: How do normative climates impact on an individual’s vulnerability or resilience across the life course? How can the interactions between opportunities and normative structures influence the course of an individual’s life?

4. Personal normative beliefs across the course of life

Another area of investigation would look at the impact of an individual’s adherence to social norms at different stages of the course of life. This examination centres on questions such as: Which normative beliefs affect the vulnerability or resilience of an individual facing stressful events or transitions? Do certain life events such as marital separation or loss of employment change the impact of normative beliefs on the well-being of individuals?


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Bonoli, G., & Turtschi, N. (2015). Inequality in social capital and labour market re-entry among unemployed people in Switzerland. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 42, 97-95.

Eicher, V., Settersten, R., Penic, S., Glaeser, S., Martenot, A., & Spini, D. (2015). Normative climates of parenthood across Europe: Judging voluntary childlessness and working parents. European Sociological Review, Advance online publication.

Glaeser, S. (2016). The irony of social trust: Individual-level and contextual-level links with protest intention and radical right support in Switzerland. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, Advance online publication.

Rosenstein, E., Dif-Pradalier, M., & Bonvin, J. - M. (2015). Vocational training as an integration opportunity? A Swiss case study on struggling young adults. In H. - U. Otto, Atzmüller, R., Berthet, T., Bifulco, L., Bonvin, J. - M., Chiappero-Martinetti, E., et al., Facing trajectories from school to work – Towards a capability-friendly youth policy in Europe (pp. 237-248). Dordrecht: Springer.