American Sociological Association

Sharing the Burden of the Transition to Adulthood: African American Young Adults’ Transition Challenges and Their Mothers’ Health Risk

For many African American youth, the joint influences of economic and racial marginalization render the transition to stable adult roles challenging. We have gained much insight into how these challenges affect future life chances, yet we lack an understanding of what these challenges mean in the context of linked lives. Drawing on a life course framework, this study examines how young African Americans’ experiences across a variety of salient domains during the transition to adulthood affect their mothers’ health. Results suggest that stressors experienced by African Americans during the transition to adulthood (e.g., unemployment, troubled romantic relationships, arrest) heighten their mothers’ cumulative biological risk for chronic diseases, or allostatic load, and reduce subjective health. These results suggest that the toll of an increasingly tenuous and uncertain transition to adulthood extends beyond young people to their parents. Hence, increased public investments during this transition may not only reduce inequality and improve life chances for young people themselves, but may also enhance healthy aging by relieving the heavy burden on parents to help their children navigate this transition.


Ashley B. Barr





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