Major depression is frequently characterized by recurrent episodes over the life course. First lifetime episodes of depression, however, are typically more strongly associated with major life stress than are successive recurrences. A key theoretical issue involves how the role of major life stress changes from an initial episode over subsequent recurrences. The primary conceptual framework for research on life stress and recurrence of depression is the "kindling" hypothesis (R. M. Post, 1992). Despite the strengths of the kindling hypothesis, a review of the research literature reveals inconsistencies and confusion about life stress and its implications for the recurrence of depression. Adopting a life stress perspective, the authors introduce 3 major themes that resolve the inconsistencies in the current literature. They integrate these themes and extrapolate the ideas with available data to develop a preliminary framework for evaluating competing explanatory models and to guide research on life stress and the recurrence of depression.