Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 190–200 | Cite as

The Relationship of Early Maladaptive Schemas and Anticipated Risky Behaviors in College Students

  • Stacy M. Marengo
  • Jeffrey KlibertEmail author
  • Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling
  • Jacob Warren
  • K. Bryant Smalley


The developmental transition from adolescence to adulthood, a period of time known as emerging adulthood, is marked by great personal growth and interpersonal maturation (Arnett, Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004). Risk-taking behaviors are seen as a significant impediment to positive development during emerging adulthood. However, few researchers have examined how underlying cognitive processes contribute to the development and exacerbation of risk-taking behaviors at this time. In the current study, we examined the multivariate associations between early maladaptive schemas (disconnection and rejection, impaired autonomy, impaired limits, other-directedness, overvigilance, and inhibition) and expected involvement in five indices of risky behaviors for college women (n = 341) and college men (n = 143). Gender-specific patterns emerged in the prediction of different risk-behavior indices. Early maladaptive schemas accounted for 24% of the variance in men’s anticipated engagement in risky sexual behavior (vs. 9% of women’s). Early maladaptive schemas accounted for 20% of the variance in women’s anticipated engagement in both academic/work and illegal/aggressive risky behaviors (vs. 11 and 9% of men’s). In addition, unique schema domains differentially predicted variance in risky sexual, illicit drug use, heavy drinking, and aggressive/illegal risk behavior for each gender. Gender-sensitive and schema-specific prevention efforts for different types of risky behaviors, often present during emerging adulthood, may be warranted.


Emerging adulthood Risk-taking Gender Maladaptive schemas 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stacy M. Marengo
    • 1
  • Jeffrey Klibert
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling
    • 3
  • Jacob Warren
    • 4
  • K. Bryant Smalley
    • 2
  1. 1.Northwestern State UniversityNatchitochesUSA
  2. 2.Georgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA
  3. 3.University of South AlabamaMobileUSA
  4. 4.Mercer University School of MedicineMaconUSA

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