Growth Patterns of Future Orientation : A Prospective Examination of the Emergence of ResilienceA: A Prospective Examination of the Emergence of Resiliencemong Maltreated Youth: A Prospective Examination of the Emergence of Resilience

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Abstract

During adolescence, a positive outlook toward the future (i.e., future orientation) can protect youth from the risks conferred by childhood adversity. Research to date, however, has largely considered future orientation as a static attribute. Developmental systems perspectives suggest that future orientation, when considered across time, will exhibit dynamic trajectories with levels changing in response to the varying balance of risks and resources in youths’ environments. Investigating the developmental course and consequences of future orientation is particularly germane to maltreated youth who may benefit from programs that target this protective mechanism. The present study tested hypotheses regarding the developmental course of future orientation, including the association of distinct future orientation trajectories with time-varying risk factors and resources, and the association of continuity and change in future orientation trajectories with young adult psychosocial functioning. Hypotheses were investigated with longitudinal (T1 Mage = 12.22, T2 Mage = 13.52, T3 Mage = 14.79, T4 Mage = 18.54), multireporter data from a nationally representative sample of maltreated youth (N = 1,461). Growth mixture modeling (GMM) identified three classes of growth trajectories in future orientation: high-persistent, low start/increasing, and high start/decreasing. Time-variant and -invariant risk factors and resources differentiated youths’ future orientation trajectories. Youth in the high-persistent and low start/increasing trajectories were more likely to attain young adulthood developmental milestones—including independent living skills, social capital, employment, and higher weekly income. This study documents how an important component of resilient adaptation emerges and promotes positive outcomes among highly vulnerable youth.

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