Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, 35:587

First online:

The Influence of Future Certainty and Contextual Factors on Delinquent Behavior and School Adjustment Among African American Adolescents

  • Roslyn M. CaldwellAffiliated withResearch Interests: Examining racial/ethnic/cultural factors related to criminal competencies; development of culturally relevant treatment programs; exploration of risk and protective factors for juvenile violence and delinquency (with an emphasis on African American, Latino, and female offenders). To whom correspondence should be addressed at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Department of Forensic Psychology, The City University of New York Email author 
  • , Richard P. WiebeAffiliated withResearch Interests: Crime & personality, psychopathy, self-control, person-environment interactions, adolescent risk behaviors, future uncertainty, child maltreatment, Fitchburg State College, Behavioral Sciences Department
  • , H. Harrington ClevelandAffiliated withResearch Interests: The interactions between individual processes and contextual triggers and constraints using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. More recent research focuses on examining the construction and use of social support to reduce relapse risk among recovering college students, Human Development and Family Studies, Texas Tech University

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This study examined the ability of future certainty—an individual's perception of future stability, operationalized as the likelihood of certain life outcomes–to explain variance in delinquency and school adjustment, while controlling for economic, neighborhood, and family factors, among a cross-sectional sample of 1422 male and 1562 female African American adolescents drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Three kinds of future certainty were examined: future life certainty (e.g., life expectancy), marriage certainty, and college certainty. In hierarchical multiple regression analyses, future certainty and family functioning were stronger predictors than economic and neighborhood variables: neighborhood disorganization and family socioeconomic status. Future life certainty and expectations of attending college were stronger predictors of delinquency among males than females. Marriage certainty was the weakest predictor of the three certainty variables.


future certainty African American adolescents