Family Disruption and the Transition to Adulthood Among Low Socioeconomic Status Young Adults
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ABSTRACTYoung adults are spending longer periods of time preparing for their transitions to adulthood. A changing labor market, increase demand for post-secondary education, and rising cost of living have increased young adult’s reliance on parents and peers to achieve financial well-being. The research on “emerging adulthood” which focuses on experiences of adolescents and young adults has not paid sufficient attention to social position as a precursor to later developmental patterns and its effects on later stages of development (Schulenberg et al. 2012). This research will address this gap by integrating psychological and sociological research to explore how childhood socioeconomic status and relationships with caregivers are connected to experiences during the transition to adulthood. Family context has been linked to child development and well-being. Family disruptions are associated with deficits in academic, social, and emotional functioning throughout the life course. This research examines the experiences of transitioning to adulthood for young adults from low SES families who experienced some family disruption: divorce, foster care, kinship care, or incarcerated parent. Twenty-two young adults were interviewed to gain insight on how low socioeconomic status and linked-lives shape the emerging adulthood experiences. Results revealed that the transition to adulthood for low SES young adults in this study consisted of unstable romantic relationships, superficial friendships, limited emotional and financial supports for family and peers, and economic insecurity. Despite experiences of childhood adultification, young adults in this study expressed feelings of either not yet being adults or being “somewhat” adults. In addition, respondents expressed a persistent feeling of optimism about their future lives in spite of their experiences of adversity during childhood and adolescence.