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Journal Issue: Children of Immigrant Families Volume 14 Number 2 Summer 2004

Preparing Diverse Adolescents for the Transition to Adulthood
Andrew J. Fuligni Christina Hardway


Whether adolescents from immigrant and ethnic minority families will make a successful transition to adulthood hinges on their educational achievement, their acquisition of employable skills and abilities, and their physical and mental health. This article focuses on the extent to which diverse adolescents are prepared for adulthood according to these three critical developmental outcomes. It finds that, in general, adolescents from Latino and African American backgrounds appear to be less prepared to become healthy, productive, and successful adults than their peers. Specifically:

  • Current data show that youth from Latino and African American families, particularly foreign-born Latino youth, have more difficulty than other adolescents completing school at each stage of the educational pipeline.

  • African American and Latino youth aged 18 and over who do not attend college have more difficulty finding employment than white youth with similar levels of education.

  • In general, minority youth are more likely to be in poor physical health and to engage in high-risk behaviors compared with white youth, while immigrant youth appear to be healthier across a broad range of indicators.

A key reason for these differences is that minority and immigrant youth have less access to and use of high-quality institutions and programs, including high schools, colleges, after-school programs, and health care resources. To better prepare these youth for adulthood, the authors call for improving school quality, providing financial support and health insurance, addressing information and language gaps, and building upon cultural traditions.