Life course theory suggests that an individual’s development is influenced by many factors such as one’s past choices and environment. The twenties are a period of great autonomy for many young people with opportunities to engage in choices with lasting consequences, both positive (e.g., furthering education, volunteering) and negative (e.g., crime, risky sexual behavior, heavy video game use). The current study explored the relationship between behaviors during one’s twenties and indices of adjustment (i.e., life satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and hope) and maladjustment (i.e., poor emotional health and regret) in one’s thirties. Additionally, as factors such as income and biological sex may limit or impact the choices one has available to them or chooses to engage in during this time period, income and biological sex were both tested as moderators. Participants included 4,969 (59% female, 41% male) individuals between the ages of 30 and 35. Employing structural equation modeling, results revealed that choices from emerging adulthood were associated with outcomes during one’s thirties. Specifically, education and volunteering were associated with positive outcomes (i.e., higher life satisfaction, better emotional health, and lower levels of regret); volunteering was also significantly associated with hope and relationship satisfaction. Criminal activity, on the other hand, was associated with negative outcomes (i.e., lower life satisfaction and higher levels of regret). Number of non-committed sexual partners was significantly associated with lower relationship satisfaction and emotional health. This study contributes significantly to the literature on emerging and early adulthood by suggesting that choices made during emerging adulthood impact adjustment or maladjustment during early adulthood.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Marriage, Family, and Human Development



Date Submitted


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emerging adulthood, choices, adjustment, maladjustment, life course