Falling Behind and Feeling Bad: Unmet Expectations and Mental Health during the Transition to Adulthood

Elizabeth Culatta, Jody Clay-Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

How do perceived expectations of what it means to be an adult affect mental health? We draw from life course and social psychological literature to argue that falling behind perceived expectations for reaching markers of adulthood is associated with depression and anxiety. We test predictions with data from an original sample of more than five hundred 18- to 29-year-olds in the United States. Consistent with predictions, we find a positive relationship between falling behind expectations and both anxiety and depression even while controlling for own expectations about the accomplishment of markers of adulthood. In particular, we find that falling behind perceived expectations of peers regarding markers of adulthood is associated with anxiety and that falling behind perceived expectations of parents and society regarding markers of adulthood is associated with depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSociety and Mental Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • age norms
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • life course
  • mental health
  • psychological distress
  • reflected appraisals
  • transition to adulthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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