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22-06-2019 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 9/2019

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 9/2019

Early Environmental Unpredictability: Implications for Youth’s Perceptions and Social Functioning

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 9/2019
Kelli L. Dickerson, Helen M. Milojevich, Jodi A. Quas
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According to an evolutionary perspective, early environmental unpredictability induces expectations in youth that their future is uncertain and increases their likelihood of engaging in opportunistic, impulsive, and aggressive behaviors. Although considerable evidence supports the links between environmental unpredictability and such behaviors, less is known about how youth growing up in volatile environments actually perceive their lives and how these perceptions relate to their behavior. In this study, two samples of 10–17 year-olds, one with a history of maltreatment and removal from home (n = 90; 52% female; 67% Hispanic-American) and one without (n = 80; 54% female; 69% Hispanic-American), reported on their perceptions of unpredictability and social functioning. Maltreated youth endorsed greater perceptions of unpredictability than non-maltreated youth. For both groups, greater perceptions of unpredictability were associated with increased aggression and conduct problems and decreased prosociality. Findings advance understanding of a developmental pathway contributing to opportunistic and risky social behavior in youth.

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