Barriers to Success: Moving Toward a Deeper Understanding of Adversity’s Effects on Adolescents

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Author(s): America’s Promise AllianceCenter for Promise

  • Michelle V. Porche
  • Jonathan F. Zaff
  • Jingtong Pan

Published: March 28, 2017

Report Intro/Brief:
“Ten percent of youth – about 4 million young people – in the United States experience three or more adverse life experiences (ALEs) in adolescence. When these adversities – including economic hardship, domestic or neighborhood violence, and parental incarceration – add up, young people are substantially less likely to complete high school, go to college, and have a stable job. Furthermore, major disparities in adversity level exist by income, race and ethnicity, parental stress, and maternal education. Youth living in poverty are nearly six times more likely than their higher-income peers to experience multiple adversities. Youth who identify as Black or as Multi-racial/Other have the highest rates of experiencing three or more adversities. In addition, when parents experience similar adversity, or a young person’s mother did not graduate from high school, a young person’s opportunity to thrive is diminished further.

While many young people in America continue to be bombarded by severe adversity, few receive the supports and resources they need to cope and succeed. The Center for Promise is intent on learning more about the effects of ALEs and the kinds of support and resources youth need to thrive in spite of them. This report, a collection of findings from four separate studies with three independent and representative data collections on youth in America and their caregivers, offers insights and recommendations that practitioners and policymakers can use to help mitigate the impact that multiple adversities have on the lives of America’s youth.”


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