Life Experiences Linked to Positive Trajectories during Adolescence and the Transition to Adulthood

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Jeylan MORTIMER, University of Minnesota, Department of Sociology, USA
Dom ROLANDO, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics, USA
Key formative experiences have the potential to influence youths’ movement through the transition to adulthood.  Positive experiences promote resilience and success among at-risk youth; negative experiences can derail young people who are doing well at the outset. Taking a holistic and person-centered approach, we leverage data from the Youth Development Study, which followed 1,139 St. Paul youth from the 9thgrade to age 38 (19 waves of data collection).

First, using latent class analysis, we identify youth who exhibit constellations of attributes indicating greater or lesser age-specific “success” in mid-adolescence (age 14-15), late adolescence (age 17-18), and early adulthood (age 25-26). In mid and late adolescence, more successful youth had higher grades, educational aspirations, and intrinsic school motivation, and avoided smoking/alcohol use.  More successful young adults were employed, economically self-sufficient, making progress toward career goals, satisfied with their jobs, and lacked physical and emotional problems.

Second, we trace shifts between classes as respondents moved from middle to late adolescence and from late adolescence to adulthood.  Though the majority was “stable,” considerable movement occurred between classes.

Finally, using multinomial logistic regression (controlling background characteristics), the following experiences distinguished adolescents moving from less to more successful classes (“resilience”), and affected the likelihood of staying in the more successful class (versus “downward mobility”): positive parent and teacher relationships, peer support, and school autonomy. These experiences continued to predict positive trajectories during early adulthood.  Key protective factors emerged in early adulthood: a teacher/professor who influenced career goals, work autonomy, supervisory support, and delayed child-bearing.

We conclude that the quality of family and peer relationships, and specific experiences in school and work settings, differentiate youth exhibiting more or less positive trajectories.  Because the quality of adolescent experiences continue to influence trajectories during the transition to adulthood, it is especially important to address deficiencies in adolescent contexts.