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Characterizing competence among a high-risk sample of emerging adults: Prospective predictions and biological considerations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 January 2021

Justin Russotti*
Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, New York, NY, USA
Jennifer M. Warmingham
Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, New York, NY, USA
Elizabeth D. Handley
Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, New York, NY, USA
Fred A. Rogosch
Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, New York, NY, USA
Dante Cicchetti
Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, New York, NY, USA Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Author for Correspondence: Justin Russotti, Mt. Hope Family Center, 187 Edinburgh Street, Rochester, NY14608; E-mail:


Few conditions epitomize severe and chronic stress to a greater extent than child maltreatment, which can derail development across multiple domains of functioning and throughout the life course. Furthermore, child maltreatment tends to co-occur with other adversities, such as poverty. Many individuals grow up under the stressful conditions of these adversities and exhibit developmental competence. The current study prospectively charted the developmental progression of economically disadvantaged maltreated and nonmaltreated children from childhood to emerging adulthood, and examined patterns of competence across multiple developmental domains of functioning central to the period of emerging adulthood. The study investigated childhood precursors to these patterns of adaptation and maladaptation, as well as the physiological cost of these patterns of adaptation (i.e., C-reactive protein; CRP). Latent class analysis revealed four distinct classes of functioning: multifaceted competence across domains (Multifaceted Competence); (multifaceted maladaptation across domains (Multi-Problem); (c) and two classes with mixed patterns of competence and maladaptation (Externalizing Problems and Work/School Impairment). Maltreated individuals were less likely than nonmaltreated individuals to demonstrate patterns of multifaceted competence and more likely to demonstrate aggregate maladaptation across domains. Additionally, Black men who demonstrated a pattern of multifaceted psychosocial competence also evidenced higher levels of low-grade inflammation (indexed by CRP), suggesting physiological distress was associated with adaptation in the context of stress among these individuals. Findings demonstrate the heterogenous patterns of functioning and diverse developmental outcomes that follow early adversity.

Special Section 2: Early Adversity and Development: Contributions from the Field
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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