Childhood risk and protective factors and late adolescent adjustment in inner city minority youth

Paul R. Smokowski, Emily A. Mann, Arthur J. Reynolds, Mark W. Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


This investigation examined longitudinal relationships among childhood risk and protective factors and academic, social, and mental health outcomes in late adolescence. Data were drawn from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, a research project that has tracked a cohort of 1539 impoverished inner-city youth from birth to young adulthood. An ecological model containing information on child characteristics, family processes, early childhood intervention program participation, and middle childhood indicators of competence and problems was used to predict depression, juvenile delinquency, and high school or GED completion during late adolescence or young adulthood. Multivariate negative binomial and logistic regression analyses were used to show that cumulative family risk from birth to age 12 significantly predicted increases in juvenile court petitions and decreases in high school or GED completion. Early childhood intervention in preschool had the widest ranging protective effects on all three adolescent outcomes. The probability of high school or GED completion was significantly increased by preschool intervention, by parent(s) participating in the child's early elementary school experiences, by satisfactory elementary school grades, and by the child's ability to be task oriented. Being female, participating in preschool intervention, displaying shy or anxious behavior, and having higher grades in middle school predicted lower rates of juvenile court involvement while acting out behavior in middle school increased court involvement rates. Preschool intervention, peer social skills, early classroom adjustment, and shy or anxious behavior in middle school were protective factors against adolescent depression while being female and having higher grades in early elementary school were associated with higher rates of adolescent depression. Implications for social work practice and future research were discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-91
Number of pages29
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this paper was supported by National Research Service Administration Pre- and Post-doctoral fellowships (No. T32MH12020) awarded to the first author and funded through the National Institute of Mental Health. Support for the Chicago Longitudinal Study also comes from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (No. R01HD34294), The Office of Educational Research Improvement (No. R305T990477) and The University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School.


  • Child development
  • Childhood risk
  • Early childhood intervention
  • Longitudinal research
  • Middle school
  • Poverty
  • Preschool intervention
  • Protective factors


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