Abstract: From Adolescent to Young Adult: Flourishing Mental Health As a Key Component of Healthy Development (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

408P From Adolescent to Young Adult: Flourishing Mental Health As a Key Component of Healthy Development

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Ashley Palmer, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington
Mansi Patel, MBA, LMSW, Doctoral Student & Graduate Research Assistant, University of Texas at Arlington, McKinney, TX
Shellye Sledge, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Sarah Narendorf, PhD, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Katherine Sanchez, PhD, Associate Dean of Research, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Background: The prevalence and impact of serious mental health conditions among young adults receives considerable attention. However, limited research has examined the presence of positive mental health, or flourishing, among young adults. The present study extends Keyes1 examination of positive mental health among U.S. adolescents, where only 39.8% of youth were flourishing. We describe the prevalence of flourishing among these same individuals as young adults and investigate the relationships between flourishing and indicators representing eight core dimensions of healthy young adult development2. We hypothesize that flourishing decreases with age and indicators from the core dimensions of healthy development are related to flourishing among young adults.

Methods: Our sample includes 1,088 individuals aged 20 to 28 at the time of the 2011 Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) Transition into Adulthood Supplement (TAS) who were aged 12 to 18 during the 2002 PSID Child Development Supplement (CDS-II). Items from the three languishing/flourishing subscales3 in the TAS 2011 were used to create a dichotomous flourishing variable. We utilize a framework of healthy development among young adults to select indicators from eight core dimensions. Univariate tests and bivariate tests were used to describe the prevalence of flourishing during young adulthood and relationships between indicators from each dimension and flourishing. A multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the relationships among indicators of healthy development and flourishing mental health in young adulthood, controlling for adolescent flourishing.

Results: Most young adults (62.5%) have flourishing mental health. Bivariate results show adolescent flourishing is related to flourishing in young adulthood, as are indicators from six of the eight dimensions of healthy young adult development. Multivariable logistic regression results indicate that flourishing during adolescence is significantly associated with higher odds of young adult flourishing (OR=1.50, p<.05), as is voting (OR=1.86, p<.05), and confidence about problem-solving abilities (OR=1.83, p<.05). Conversely, reporting Hispanic ethnicity (OR=.30, p<.001), higher levels of psychological distress (OR=.84, p<.001), and more frequent perceptions of everyday discrimination (OR=.96, p<.05) are associated with lower odds of flourishing.

Conclusions: Unlike adolescence, by young adulthood most study participants have flourishing mental health. Additionally, flourishing mental health is related to key dimensions of healthy development, including civic engagement, life skills, ethical behavior, physical health, and healthy family and social relationships. Some of these relationships – specifically civic engagement and confidence in problem-solving abilities – persist even when controlling for flourishing status in adolescence. Overall, results suggest the transition from adolescence into young adulthood may provide an opportunity for promoting positive mental health as an important, malleable factors that contributes to healthy development into adulthood.


  1. Keyes CLM. Mental health in adolescence: Is America’s youth flourishing? Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2006;76(3):395-402. doi:10.1037/0002-9432.76.3.395
  2. Scales PC, Benson PL, Oesterle S, Hill KG, Hawkins JD, Pashak TJ. The dimensions of successful young adult development: A conceptual and measurement framework. Appl Dev Sci. 2016;20(3):150-174. doi:10.1080/10888691.2015.1082429
  3. Keyes CLM. The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life. J Health Soc Behav. 2002;43(2):207. doi:10.2307/3090197