Care Orientation in the Teens as a Predictor of Young Adult Psychosocial Adjustment

D. M. Hutchinson, J. A. Macdonald, W. T. Hallam, R. K. Leung, J. W. Toumbourou, R. McGee, G. Tooley, S. A. Hemphill, H. Skouteris, C. A. Olsson

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The transition from adolescence to young adulthood is a watershed period in development that carries risk for poor psychosocial adjustment. It also carries potential for positive transitions into the caregiving roles and responsibilities of adult life. Research to date has predominantly focused on adolescent predictors of problematic rather than positive transitions; yet predictors of the latter hold equal (if not greater) promise for informing health promoting interventions. The purpose of this study was threefold: (1) to use Latent Profile Analysis (LPA) to define patterns of psychosocial adjustment and maladjustment in young adulthood (21-years of age); (2) to examine the unique role of adolescent prosocial behaviour (e.g., volunteering and civic engagement) in promoting adjustment and reducing maladjustment in young adulthood; and, (3) to examine whether protective developmental relationships are maintained after adjustment for other covariates including socio-economic background factors and personality characteristics. Data were drawn from the Victorian cohort of the International Youth Development Study (IYDS; N = 2407), a representative sample of students in Victoria, Australia. Students were assessed in Grade 9 (Mean age = 15-years) and followed up at age 21-years. LPA identified three psychosocial adjustment classes at age 21 defined as: (1) Adjusted (24.8 %); (2) Normative (63.9 %); and, (3) Maladjusted (11.3 %). Adolescent volunteering, belief in a moral order, family opportunities for prosocial behaviour, and commitment to school were associated with enhanced adjustment and reduced maladjustment in young adulthood. Findings highlight the potential benefit of interventions designed to enhance adolescent prosocial behaviours and care orientation in promoting healthy transitions into young adult life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2051-2076
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Caring
  • Psychosocial adjustment
  • Wellbeing
  • Young adulthood

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