Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 67-81

First online:

Future Orientation, School Contexts, and Problem Behaviors: A Multilevel Study

  • Pan ChenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, CNPRU, University of Chicago Email author 
  • , Alexander T. VazsonyiAffiliated withDepartment of Family Sciences, University of Kentucky

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The association between future orientation and problem behaviors has received extensive empirical attention; however, previous work has not considered school contextual influences on this link. Using a sample of N = 9,163 9th to 12th graders (51.0 % females) from N = 85 high schools of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the present study examined the independent and interactive effects of adolescent future orientation and school contexts (school size, school location, school SES, school future orientation climate) on problem behaviors. Results provided evidence that adolescent future orientation was associated independently and negatively with problem behaviors. In addition, adolescents from large-size schools reported higher levels of problem behaviors than their age mates from small-size schools, controlling for individual-level covariates. Furthermore, an interaction effect between adolescent future orientation and school future orientation climate was found, suggesting influences of school future orientation climate on the link between adolescent future orientation and problem behaviors as well as variations in effects of school future orientation climate across different levels of adolescent future orientation. Specifically, the negative association between adolescent future orientation and problem behaviors was stronger at schools with a more positive climate of future orientation, whereas school future orientation climate had a significant and unexpectedly positive relationship with problem behaviors for adolescents with low levels of future orientation. Findings implicate the importance of comparing how the future orientation-problem behaviors link varies across different ecological contexts and the need to understand influences of school climate on problem behaviors in light of differences in psychological processes among adolescents.


Delinquency Deviance Future hopefulness School climate Hierarchical linear modeling Interaction