Long-Term Psychological Health Among Individuals Pursuing Emerging Adulthood-Type Pathways in the 1950s and 1960s

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We analyzed data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (N = 6390) to investigate how common an emerging adulthood-type lifestyle (e.g., delayed marriage and childbearing, pursuit of higher education) was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and what the long-term psychological-health correlates were of such a lifestyle. Cluster analyses of marital, childbearing, educational, and occupational variables from 1957 (high school graduation) to 1964 generated six clusters that we labeled: fast-starters (early marriage and childbearing, little education beyond high school, virtually all employed), very-educated/partnered (mean educational attainment well into graduate school and among the earliest to get married), moderately educated/family-oriented (mean years of education somewhat shy of a bachelor’s degree, early marriage and childbearing), educated singles (late marriage and childbearing, if at all, averaging a bachelor’s degree; most prototypical of emerging adulthood), work/military-first (little education past high school, late marriage and childbearing), and military/professional-aspiration (envisioning career requiring college education and pursuing one). The clusters were then compared on health and well-being measures from 1992 to 1993 and 2003 to 2005, controlling for family-of-origin socioeconomic status. In general, individuals whose life pursuits combined higher education, professional career aspirations, and marriage exhibited the best long-term psychological health. Results are discussed in terms of historical conditions when these individuals transitioned to adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-132
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Adult Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • 1950s
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Health
  • Wisconsin Longitudinal Study


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