The Role of Institutions in the Transition to Adulthood and Their Impact on Pathways to Adulthood and Adult Criminal Outcomes
Lee, JoAnn Su Ting
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In today's social and economic context in the U.S., many individuals experience an extended transition to adulthood period during which they are able to delay adopting adult social roles and responsibilities, such as initiating careers, making long-term commitments to a romantic partner, and starting a family. However, many individuals do not have the resources or supports that would enable them to delay adopting one or more of those roles, experiencing an accelerated transition to adulthood. An accelerated transition can pose more challenges in the form of economic or housing hardships and may hinder the ability of individuals to accumulate additional and necessary human capital. This dissertation applies an institutional lens to the study of the transition to adulthood in order to help illuminate the role of social structures in shaping individual lives during childhood, adolescence, and the transition to adulthood, and consists of three analyses. Chapter 2 examines the experiences of a general diverse sample of urban youth, and chapters 3 and 4 focus on foster youth aging out of care. Chapter 2 considers whether the normative socializing institutions of family and school play a role in shaping the transition to adulthood, whether extended or accelerated, and whether the individual's bond to these institutions mediates the relationship. Although the findings indicate that the prosocial socialization process operating in the family and school does not play a role in explaining differences in who experiences an extended or accelerated adulthood, other characteristics of the family play an important role, such as parent school expectations, a family disruption, and immigrant status. Chapter 3 examines the impact of legal system involvement on foster youth in preparation for the transition to adulthood on criminal activities during the transition to adulthood. The findings indicate that legal system involvement is associated with higher levels of criminal activities at age 21. In addition, legal system involvement initiates a process of social exclusion where youth are less likely to graduate from high school by age 19, and this has an impact on their employment status at age 21. Chapter 4 investigates the impact on arrests of extending foster care support during the transition to adulthood; the findings indicate that extended support in the first year after turning 18 reduces the risk of arrest, but this effect declines after the first year. Together, this dissertation research finds that during childhood and adolescence, as well as during the transition to adulthood, institutions play an important role in shaping the transition to adulthood. Improving institutional structures to better support individuals through the transition period, especially for those who experience an accelerated adulthood, can help more individuals successfully transition into adulthood. For example, increasing the high school completion rate of foster youth with legal histories and providing extended care support to former foster youth can reduce the likelihood of social exclusion for these youths.
- Social welfare