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Unfulfilled expectations and symptoms of depression among young adults


  • Mossakowski, Krysia N.


This study uses the life course perspective and data from 16 waves of the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979-1994) to examine whether unfulfilled expectations about educational attainment, employment, marriage, and parenthood are risk factors for subsequent symptoms of depression among young adults in the United States. Results from ordinary least squares regression analyses indicate that achieving a lower level of education than expected, becoming a parent unexpectedly, and being out of the labor force unexpectedly at ages 19-27 predict higher levels of depressive symptoms at ages 29-37, adjusting for demographics, family background, and earlier mental health. These effects do not significantly vary by gender, age, race/ethnicity, or family background, and are not explained by being selected out of the labor force for long durations because of mental or physical illness, attending school, keeping house, or other reasons. Overall, this study contributes to the literature on stress and mental health by acknowledging people's expectations about the markers of adulthood, and advances our understanding of why the timing of transitions in people's lives can have long-term mental health consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Mossakowski, Krysia N., 2011. "Unfulfilled expectations and symptoms of depression among young adults," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(5), pages 729-736, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:73:y:2011:i:5:p:729-736

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mossakowski, Krysia N., 2008. "Is the duration of poverty and unemployment a risk factor for heavy drinking?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(6), pages 947-955, September.
    2. Mirowsky, John & Ross, Catherine E., 2002. "Depression, parenthood, and age at first birth," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(8), pages 1281-1298, April.
    3. Williams, Sheila & McGee, Rob & Olaman, Susan & Knight, Robert, 1997. "Level of education, age of bearing children and mental health of women," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(6), pages 827-836, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dirlam, Jonathan & Zheng, Hui, 2017. "Job satisfaction developmental trajectories and health: A life course perspective," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 95-103.
    2. Eliva Ambugo & Jenjira Yahirun, 2016. "Remittances and risk of major depressive episode and sadness among new legal immigrants to the United States," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 34(8), pages 243-258, January.


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