“I'm Afraid I Won't Make It to 19”: Prevalence and Correlates of Truncated and Optimistic Future Expectations for African American and Latino Young Men
Methods: Data was utilized from waves one (N=269) and two (N=230) of the Chicago Youth Development Study, a longitudinal prospective cohort study of risk of school failure, antisocial behavior and violence among inner-city African American (53.7%) and Latino (42.7%) young men. Mean age was 13 years (wave 1) and 14 years (wave 2). 62% of participants live in single-parent homes, 47.6% of the families report income below $10,000/year, and 73.5% below $20,000. Participants were recruited from 17 Chicago public schools. We posit 1) youth will report inflated fear of early death, with an increase in fatalism between ages 13-14, and 2) both truncated and optimistic future orientations will be significantly correlated with family and neighborhood influences. Prevalence of open-ended responses to youth’s biggest fear in the next 5 yrs (dichotomized into death/not death), confirmatory factor analysis of items from the future expectations questionnaire, and bivariate correlations test the hypotheses.
Results: The point prevalence rate for youth reporting fear of death in the next five years was 16% at 13 years and 27.4% at 14 years. Reporting fear of death in wave 2 was significantly higher for African American participants χ2 (2, N = 225) = 22.29, p = .000. CFA was conducted on the total sample at wave 2. A two factor a priori model (“expected threats to survival” and “positive future expectations”) was tested using MPlus. Model fit indices were good (TLI=0.955, CFI =0.967, RMSEA=0.084) and factors were well defined. Significant mean differences on “positive future expectations” were found, with African Americans higher, t (279) = 0.37, p < .000. Bivariate correlations showed significant associations in the expected direction between “threats to survival” and “positive expectations” and four measures of family functioning (positive parenting, cohesion, beliefs and communication), and maternal future expectations for son. “Positive expectations” was significantly correlated with neighborhood cohesion.
Implications: Young men reported precariously high rates of fear/expectation of early death; roughly 1 in 4 compared to 1 in 7 in a national sample, with a 10% increase between ages 13 and 14. Leveraging assets in the family and neighborhood ecology may bolster positive future expectations. A foreshortened view of the future contributes to increased engagement in health risk behaviors and lower educational investment, underscoring the importance of future expectation as a potential change mechanism for intervention and prevention efforts to promote healthy development–vulnerable youth may especially benefit from such intervention.