As Pearlin has argued, risk and protective factors for mental health problems arise out of the structural contexts of people's lives and are fundamental to the study of mental health. Despite wide acceptance of this proposition by the field, relatively little attention has been devoted to the effort to specify those variations in social context that matter. That is, what are the aspects of context that put people at risk for risks and/or are protective from risks? The present study examines two spheres of adolescent social context, neighborhoods and families, and considers how such contexts influence young adult mental health. Further, this research explores mechanisms that may explain the linkage between social context and mental health problems. Findings suggest that multiple dimensions of neighborhood context make independent contributions to the prediction of young adult psychological distress and family processes and exposure to social stress are two of the mechanisms that explain this linkage. However, they do not fully explain the link between family socioeconomic status and young adult mental health.