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The role of children's future expectations in self-system functioning and adjustment to life stress: A prospective study of urban at-risk children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 September 2009

Peter A. Wyman*
University of Rochester
Emory L. Cowen
University of Rochester
William C. Work
University of Rochester
Judy H. Kerley
University of Rochester
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Peter A. Wyman, University of Rochester Center for Community Study, 575 Mt. Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620.


Study I examined relationships between an interview measure of children's future expectations and variables reflecting self-system functioning with 136 9–11-year-old urban children exposed to high psychosocial stress. As expected, future expectations related to affect regulation, self-representations, and school adjustment. Study II, done with a subsample of the original group, showed that early positive future expectations predicted enhanced socioemotional adjustment in school and a more internal locus of control 2½–3½ years later and acted as a protective factor in reducing the negative effects of high stress on self-rated competence. These findings: (a) are consistent with prior data showing positive expectations to be characteristic of resilient children; (b) suggest that early positive future expectations influence later adjustment; and (c) underscore the role children have in actively structuring their environments and, thus, influencing their development. The heuristic value of the construct of self for future studies of resilience is suggested, and implications for preventive interventions are considered.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1993

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