Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Taking hold of some kind of life: How developmental tasks relate to trajectories of well-being during the transition to adulthood

  • JOHN E. SCHULENBERG (a1), ALISON L. BRYANT (a2) and PATRICK M. O'MALLEY (a1)
Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine how successes and difficulties with various developmental tasks of early adulthood relate to the course of well-being. Three waves of national panel data spanning ages 18–26 were drawn from the Monitoring the Future study (N = 3518). Based on self-reports, respondents were assigned scores (succeeding, maintaining, or stalling) to reflect progress in seven domains of developmental tasks: education, work, financial autonomy, romantic involvement, peer involvement, substance abuse avoidance, and citizenship. We identified trajectory groups of well-being (based on self-esteem, self-efficacy, and social support) that reflect diverging trajectories during the transition: steady–high versus high–decreasing, and low–increasing versus steady–low. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to predict membership in the diverging well-being trajectory groups as a function of developmental task domain scores. Maintaining or gaining a salutary trajectory of well-being across the transition was found to be a function of more success and less stalling across the developmental tasks, specifically in the work, romantic involvement, and citizenship domains. Compensatory effects (e.g., succeeding in education compensated for not succeeding in work) and threshold effects (e.g., succeeding in both achievement and affiliation domains was necessary for a salutary trajectory) were also found.This study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA01411). The authors thank Dante Cicchetti, Kate Fiori, Jennifer Maggs, Wayne Osgood, and Arnold Sameroff for helpful comments and suggestions and Ginny Laetz and Tanya Hart for assistance with the preparation of this article.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: John Schulenberg, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248.
References
Hide All

REFERENCES

Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist 55, 469480.
Arnett, J. J. (2001). Conceptions of the transition to adulthood: Perspectives from adolescence through midlife. Journal of Adult Development 8, 133143.
Aseltine, R. H., & Gore, S. (1993). Mental health and social adaptation following the transition from high school. Journal of Research on Adolescence 3, 247270.
Bachman, J. G., O'Malley, P. M., Schulenberg, J. E., Johnston, L. D., Bryant, A. L., & Merline, A. C. (2002). The decline of substance use in young adulthood: Changes in social activities, roles, and beliefs. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Baltes, P. (1997). On the incomplete architecture of human ontogeny: Selection, optimization, and compensation as foundation of developmental theory. American Psychologist 52, 366380.
Baltes, P. B., Lindenberger, U., & Staudinger, U. M. (1998). Life-span theory in developmental psychology. In R. M. Lerner (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (pp. 10291143). New York: Wiley.
Bardone, A. M., Moffitt, T., Caspi, A., & Dickson, N. (1996). Adult mental health and social outcomes of adolescent girls with depression and conduct disorder. Development and Psychopathology 8, 811829.
Baumrind, D. (1987). A developmental perspective on adolescent risk taking in contemporary America. In C. E. Irwin, Jr. (Ed.), Adolescent social behavior and health (pp. 93125). San Francisco, CA: Jossey–Bass.
Brandtstädter, J., & Lerner, R. M. (Eds.) (1999). Action and self-development: Theory and research through the life span. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Brooks–Gunn, J., Phelps, E., & Elder, G. H., Jr. (1991). Studying lives through time: Secondary data analyses in developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology 27, 899910.
Bry, B. H., McKeon, P., & Pandina, R. J. (1982). Extent of drug use as a function of number of risk factors. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 91, 273279.
Cairns, R. B., & Cairns, B. D. (1994). Lifelines and risks: Pathways of youth in our time. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cicchetti, D. (1999). A developmental psychopathology perspective on drug abuse. In M. D. Glantz & C. R. Hartel (Eds.), Drug abuse: Origins and interventions (pp. 97117). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Cicchetti, D., & Rogosch, F. A. (2002). A developmental psychopathology perspective on adolescence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 70, 620.
Clausen, J. A. (1991). Adolescent competence and the shaping of the life course. American Journal of Sociology 96, 805842.
Cohen, P., Kasen, S., Chen, H., Hartmark, C., & Gordon, K. (2003). Variations in patterns of developmental transitions in the emerging adulthood period. Developmental Psychology 39, 657669.
Collins, W. A., & van Dulmen, M. (in press). Friendships and romance in emerging adulthood: Assessing distinctiveness in close relationships. In J. J. Arnett & J. Tanner (Eds.), Advances in emerging adulthood. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Eccles, J. S., Lord, S. E., Roeser, R. W., Barber, B. L., & Hernandez–Jozefowicz, D. M. (1997). The association of school transitions in early adolescence with developmental trajectories through high school. In J. Schulenberg, J. L. Maggs, & K. Hurrelmann (Eds.), Health risks and developmental transitions during adolescence (pp. 283320). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Elder, G. H., Jr. (1998). The life course and human development. In W. Damon (Series Ed.) & R. M. Lerner (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (pp. 939991). New York: Wiley.
Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity, youth and crisis. New York: Norton.
Grimes, K., & Walker, E. (1994). Childhood emotional expressions, educational attainment, and age at onset of illness in schizophrenia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 103, 784790.
Havighurst, R. (1952). Developmental tasks and education. New York: McKay.
Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., & Miller, J. Y. (1992). Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: Implications for substance abuse prevention. Psychological Bulletin 112, 64105.
Heckhausen, J. (1999). Developmental regulation in adulthood: Age-normative and sociostructural constraints as adaptive challenges. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hogan, D. P., & Astone, N. M. (1986). The transition to adulthood. Annual Review of Sociology 12, 109130.
Jackson, J. S., & Antonucci, T. C. (1994). Survey methodology in life-span human development research. In S. H. Cohen & H. W. Reese (Eds.), Life-span developmental psychology: Methodological contributions (pp. 6594). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Jessor, R., Donovan, J. E., & Costa, F. (1991). Beyond adolescence: Problem behavior and young adult development. New York: Cambridge University.
Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2004). National survey results on drug use from the Monitoring the Future study, 1975–2003: Vol. I. Secondary school students. Vol. II. College students and adults ages 19–45 (NIH Publication Nos. 04-5507 & 04-5508). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Lewis, M. (1999). Contextualism and the issue of continuity. Infant Behavior & Development 22, 431444.
Luthar, S. S., & Zelazo, L. B. (2003). Research on resilience: An integrated review. In S. S. Luthar (Ed.), Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities (pp. 510549). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Magnusson, D. (1995). Individual development: A holistic, integrated model. In P. Moen, G. H. Elder, Jr. & K. Luscher (Eds.), Examining lives in context: Perspectives on the ecology of human development (pp. 1960). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Marini, M. M. (1985). Determinants of the timing of adult role entry. Social Science Research 14, 309350.
Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist 56, 227238.
Masten, A. S., & Curtis, W. J. (2000). Integrating competence and psychopathology: Pathways toward a comprehensive science of adaptation in development. Development and Psychopathology 12, 529550.
Masten, A. S., Hubbard, J. J., Gest, S. D., Tellegen, A., Garmezy, N., & Ramirez, M. (1999). Competence in the context of adversity: Pathways to resilience and maladaptation from childhood to late adolescence. Development and Psychopathology 11, 143169.
Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2001). Childhood predictors differentiate life-course persistent and adolescent-limited antisocial pathways among males and females. Development and Psychopathology 13, 355375.
Mortimer, J. T., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Holmes, M., & Shanahan, M. J. (2002). The process of occupational decision making: Patterns during the transition to adulthood. Journal of Vocational Behavior 61, 439465.
Neugarten, B. L., & Datan, N. (1973). Sociological perspectives on the life cycle. In P. B. Baltes & K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Life-span developmental psychology (pp. 5369). New York: Academic Press.
Newcomb, M. D., & Bentler, P. M. (1988). Impact of adolescent drug use and social support on problems of young adults: A longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 97, 6475.
Newcomb, M. D., & Bentler, P. M. (1989). Substance use and abuse among children and teenagers. American Psychologist 44, 242249.
Nowicki, S., & Strickland, B. R. (1973). A locus of control scale for children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 40, 148154.
Nurmi, J. E. (1993). Adolescent development in an age-graded context: The role of personal beliefs, goals, and strategies in the tackling of developmental tasks and standards. International Journal of Behavioral Development 16, 169189.
Oerter, R. (1986). Developmental tasks through the life span: A new approach to an old concept. In P. B. Baltes, D. L. Featherman, & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Life span development and behavior (Vol. 7, pp. 233271). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Petersen, A. C. (1993). Creating adolescents: The role of context and process in developmental trajectories. Journal of Research on Adolescence 3, 118.
Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Rutter, M. (1996). Transitions and turning points in developmental psychopathology: As applied to the age span between childhood and mid-adulthood. International Journal of Behavioral Development 19, 603626.
Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69, 719727.
Sameroff, A. J. (2000). Developmental systems and psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology 12, 297312.
Sameroff, A. J., & Seifer, R. (1995). Accumulation of environmental risk and child mental health. In H. E. Fitzgerald & B. M. Lester (Eds.), Children in poverty: Research, health, and policy issues (pp. 233258). New York: Garland.
Schulenberg, J. E., Maggs, J. L., & O'Malley, P. M. (2003). How and why the understanding of developmental continuity and discontinuity is important: The sample case of long-term consequences of adolescent substance use. In J. T. Mortimer & M. J. Shanahan (Eds.), Handbook of the life course (pp. 413436). New York: Plenum Press.
Schulenberg, J., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Johnston, L. D. (2000). “Spread your wings and fly”: The course of health and well-being during the transition to young adulthood. In L. Crockett & R. Silbereisen (Eds.), Negotiating adolescence in times of social change. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Schulenberg, J. E., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Johnston, L. D. (in press). Early adult transitions and their relation to well-being and substance use. In F. Furstenberg, R. Rumbaut, & R. Settersten (Eds.), On the frontier of adulthood (MacArthur network edited volume). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Schulenberg, J., Wadsworth, K. N., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Johnston, L. D. (1996). Adolescent risk factors for binge drinking during the transition to young adulthood: Variable- and pattern-centered approaches to change. Developmental Psychology 32, 659674.
Schulenberg, J. E., & Zarrett, N. R. (in press). Mental health during emerging adulthood: Continuities and discontinuities in course, content, and meaning. In J. J. Arnett & J. Tanner (Eds.), Advances in emerging adulthood. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Shanahan, M. J. (2000). Pathways to adulthood in changing societies: Variability and mechanisms in life course perspective. Annual Review of Sociology 26, 667692.
Sherrod, L. R., Haggerty, R. J., & Featherman, D. L. (1993). Introduction: Late adolescence and the transition to adulthood. Journal of Research on Adolescence 3, 217226.
Shiner, R. L., & Masten, A. S. (2002). Transactional links between personality and adaptation from childhood through adulthood. Journal of Research in Personality 36, 580588.
Sroufe, L. A., & Rutter, M. (1984). The domain of developmental psychopathology. Child Development 55, 1729.
Trull, T. J. (2001). Structural relations between borderline personality disorder features and putative etiological correlates. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 110, 471481.
Wiese, B. S., Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2000). Selection, optimization and compensation: An action-related approach to work and partnership. Journal of Vocational Behavior 57, 273300.
Youniss, J., & Yates, M. (1997). Community service and social responsibility in youth. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed