Growing up with a chronic illness: Social success, educational/vocational distress

Gary R. Maslow, Abigail Haydon, Annie Laurie McRee, Carol A. Ford, Carolyn T. Halpern

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    162 Scopus citations


    Objectives: We compared adult educational, vocational, and social outcomes among young adults with and without childhood-onset chronic illness in a nationally representative U.S. sample. Methods: We used data from Wave IV (2008) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. We compared respondents who reported childhood-onset cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or epilepsy with young adults without these chronic illnesses in terms of marriage, having children, living with parents, romantic relationship quality, educational attainment, income, and employment. Multivariate models controlled for sociodemographic factors and adult-onset chronic illness. Results: As compared with those without childhood chronic illness, respondents with childhood chronic illness had similar odds of marriage (odds ratios [OR] =.89, 95% CI:.65-1.24), having children (OR =.99, 95% CI:.70-1.42), and living with parents (OR = 1.49, 95% CI.94-2.33), and similar reports of romantic relationship quality. However, the chronic illness group had lower odds of graduating college (OR =.49, 95% CI:.31.78) and being employed (OR =.56, 95% CI:.39.80), and higher odds of receiving public assistance (OR = 2.13, 95% CI: 1.39-3.25), and lower mean income. Conclusions: Young adults growing up with chronic illness succeed socially, but are at increased risk of poorer educational and vocational outcomes.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)206-212
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Aug 2011

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    This research used data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development , with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health Web site ( ). No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

    Funding Information:
    Training support for Gary Maslow, M.D. provided by T32HP14001 from the Health Resources and Services Administration for University of North Carolina's National Research Service Administration Primary Care Research Fellowship. Effort by A. Haydon and C.T. Halpern was supported by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant R01-HD57046 ; C.T. Halpern, Principal Investigator. Thanks to the National Research Service Administration Primary Care Research Fellows for careful review of this manuscript.


    • Chronic illness
    • Educational outcomes
    • Social outcomes
    • Transition to adulthood
    • Vocational outcomes
    • Young adult

    PubMed: MeSH publication types

    • Comparative Study
    • Journal Article
    • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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