Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Pathways from Childhood Adversity to Problem Behaviors in Young Adulthood: The Mediating Role of Adolescents’ Future Expectations

  • Lauren D. Brumley
  • Sara R. Jaffee
  • Benjamin P. Brumley
Empirical Research


Adverse childhood experiences and pessimistic future expectations about college attendance or mortality are established risk factors for problem behaviors among youth. Data were from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 14,800; 49 % female). Participants were 11–17-years-old at baseline and 24–32-years-old at outcome. Adolescents’ college expectations and fatalistic expectations mediated the effect of childhood adversity on violent behavior in young adulthood. Neither college nor fatalistic expectations were significant mediators in models predicting substance use and nonviolent antisocial behaviors. Although observed mediational effect sizes were small, they survived models that included multiple controls designed to rule-out alternative explanations. Intervening on adversity-exposed adolescents’ college and fatalistic expectations may reduce risk for violent behaviors.


Adolescence Young adulthood Adverse childhood experiences College expectations Fatalistic expectations Problem behavior Mediation 



This research uses data from The National Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (


Add Health was funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. The current secondary analysis of Add Health data was supported by a grant from the William T. Grant Foundation to SRJ (grant 10909).

Authors’ Contributions

L.D.B contributed to planning the study, designing the analytic plan, performing statistical analysis, interpreting the results, and writing the manuscript; S.R.J was involved in planning the study, making decisions about the analytic plan, interpreting the results, and writing the manuscript; B.B. contributed to the analytic design, performing statistical analyses, interpreting the data, and writing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Add Health study procedures were approved by the Human Subjects Review Committee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The current study was deemed exempt from review by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Pennsylvania where the analyses were performed.

Informed Consent

Add Health participants provided written informed consent for participation in all aspects of Add Health in accordance with the University of North Carolina School of Public Health Institutional Review Board guidelines that are based on the Code of Federal Regulations on the Protection of Human Subjects 45CFR46.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren D. Brumley
    • 1
  • Sara R. Jaffee
    • 1
  • Benjamin P. Brumley
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Graduate School of EducationUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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