Entering adulthood with a disability: individual, family, and cultural challenges
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For young adults with disabilities in the United States, making a meaningful transition from high school to adult life has increasingly become an important issue in research,service delivery, and policy. However, despite the growing emphasis on transition, national findings continue to report discouraging post-high school outcomes. This problem is especially difficult for young adults with disabilities from diverse cultures. To address this issue, the purpose of this study was to assess the relationship of a set of socio-demographic, cultural, and support-related predictor variables and six post-high school outcomes for a sample of young adults with disabilities of White (nonLatino), Black (non-Latino), and Latino backgrounds and their families. The following three research questions were explored to confirm and extend the findings of earlier studies. 1) What are the post-high school outcomes in the areas of employment, postsecondary education/training, and social and community participation? 2) Which factors (e.g., individual, family, and economic characteristics, cultural and attitudinal factors and use of formal or informal supports) are related to positive post-high school outcomes in the areas of employment, postsecondary education/training, and social and community participation? 3) Do differences exist between young adults with disabilities in their post-high school outcomes and their patterns of contributory factors across the three racial and ethnic groups? Data from the 1994 and 1995 U.S. National Health Interview Survey on Disability (NIDS-D) was used to employ descriptive and an ex-post facto design. Analyses of the survey items produced significant results. Though this study was designed to be exploratory, the findings reveal that a complex set of factors influence positive post-high school outcomes for these young adults in six adult life areas. In addition, the relationship between predictor variables and post-high school outcome variables varied across the three racial and ethnic groups. For example, the relationship between race/ethnicity and negative early adulthood outcomes generally showed an expected trend for Blacks and Latinos as compared with Whites; being non-White decreased the likelihood of being in employment, pursuing a postsecondary education, and participating in social and recreational activities. In contrast, being White increased the likelihood of participating in the above outcome areas. Interestingly, compared with being a White female with a disability, being a Black female with a disability or a Latino female with a disability significantly increased the likelihood of participating in religious and spiritual activities. The findings generated from this study confirm the gap between minorities and nonminorities with regard to positive outcomes and access to services and further illustrate the need to identify effective policies and programs. The NIDS-D survey made it possible to assess the current situation for a sample of White, Black, and Latino, and young adults with disabilities in a manner that has not been possible to date. While future follow-up studies will be needed to bring this picture into sharper focus, the study can provide a starting point to those who are working to improve the post-high school outcomes for young adult with disabilities and their families of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
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