Disability and the transition to adulthood: A life course contingency perspective

Gina Erickson, Ross Macmillan


Building on research on the social nature of health, we view disability as a life course contingency wherein effects are differentially consequential during the transition to adulthood based on interactions between disability type and institutional characteristics of life course pathways. Using data from the United States National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n=2299 females and 2197 males, respectively), we utilise logit-link latent class analyses to model pathways to early adulthood and assess the effects of disability on these pathways. Results show that disability is variably connected to the transition to adulthood. Specifically, cognitive rather than physical disability is strongly connected to disadvantaged pathways, largely because it disrupts educational attainments that are the fundamental building blocks of the more advantageous pathways into adulthood and has effects consistently larger than several key sociodemographic indicators. Results are discussed with reference to life course capitalisation processes and a conceptualisation of disability in relation to the institutional logics and contexts that are the backdrop to contemporary role transitions.


disability; life course; methodology; transition to adulthood

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14301/llcs.v9i2.335

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