Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 567–576 | Cite as

Cumulative Disadvantage and Youth Well-Being: A Multi-domain Examination with Life Course Implications

  • Paula S. Nurius
  • Dana M. Prince
  • Anita Rocha


The accumulation of disadvantage has been shown to increase psychosocial stressors that impact life course well-being. This study tests for significant differences, based on disadvantage exposure, on youths’ emotional and physical health, as well as family supports, peer assets, and academic success, which hold potential for resilience and amelioration of negative health outcomes. A 12 item cumulative disadvantage summed index derived from surveys of a racially and socioeconomically diverse sample of urban high school seniors (n = 9658) was used to distinguish youth at low, moderate, and high levels. Findings supported hypothesized stepped patterns such that as multiple disadvantages accumulate, a concomitant decline is evident across the assessed outcome variables (except positive academic identity). Post-hoc tests indicated a pattern of groups being significantly different from one another. Overall, results lend support for an additive stress load associated with stacked disadvantage, with implications for continuing trends into adulthood as well as preventive interventions.


Stress Disadvantage Adversity Youth Health Life course 



This publication was made possible by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon and Bill and Melinda Gates foundations, and grant support TL1 RR 025016 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and The National Institute on Mental Health grant 5 T32 MH20010 Mental Health Prevention Research Training Program. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the original study team and leads, Drs. Charles Hirschman and Gunnar Almgren for support in developing this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paula S. Nurius
    • 1
  • Dana M. Prince
    • 2
  • Anita Rocha
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.School of MedicineYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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