Exploring the Predictors and Outcomes of the Adultification of Adolescents

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Room: 511
Julia BERNARD , McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA
Mary OGLESBY , McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA
The purpose of this study was to assess the predictors and outcomes of children who are asked to perform adult roles during their childhood and adolescence. Adultification is the exposure of youth to adult knowledge and roles within the context of their families. In the most extreme forms, adultification can be termed parentification, where the child and the parent have essentially switched roles. In its less extreme forms, adultification can be beneficial as the adolescent child gains skills toward independence, adulthood, and employment. In 2007, Linda Burton provided a model of adultification that was written from ethnographies. Burton’s (2007) Conceptual Model of Adultification of Economically Disadvantaged Families was partially tested in this study. Using the first and third wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), the relationships between perceiving oneself as having been adultified in adolescence and family context in adolescence (e.g., parental time, parental physical and mental health, parenting skills, family size, family structure, family poverty, neighborhood safety, family closeness, culture, and immigrant status), as well as adolescent attributes (e.g., age, birth order, gender, physical and emotional maturity) were examined. In addition, outcomes of being adultified in adolescence (responsible behaviors, mental health, risk-taking behaviors, and civic participation) were assessed as participants reached emerging adulthood. Results showed that the having healthy parents, having parents who lack parenting skills, and having family closeness were the strongest family context predictors of adultification. Adultification was also predicted by the adolescent’s psychological availability, lack of autonomous decision making, and working less within the home (suggesting outside employment). Adultification was negatively related to the outcomes of living autonomously in adulthood, the number of transitions of emerging adulthood (e.g., education, marriage, etc.), number of sexual partners the subject had, but positively related to smoking marijuana and binge drinking. Future directions are discussed.