Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gabriel Kuperminc, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

James Emshoff, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lisa Armistead, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Stephen Erickson, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Julia Perilla, Ph.D.


Adolescents raised in impoverished environments are at substantial risk of making poor life decisions because they are often exposed to high levels of neighborhood violence and substance use, and attend under-resourced schools. Despite facing these risks, many youth experience adaptive developmental outcomes in the face of these challenges. Resilience literature identifies the presence of a supportive adult relationship and a positive future orientation (i.e., an optimistic conceptualization of the future) as factors related to decreases in negative outcomes and increases in positive outcomes among youth exposed to conditions of risk This study examined both mediation and moderation as possible mechanisms explaining the interplay of future orientation and supportive adult relationships as contributors to resilient outcomes in African-American youth raised in areas of risk. Specifically, this study assessed (1) whether youth develop a positive future orientation through their contact with supportive adults which results in decreased engagement in problem behaviors and increased grades (i.e., a mediated effect), and (2) whether the associations of supportive adult relationships with problem behavior and academic achievement differ as a function of variation in future orientation (i.e., a moderated effect). Data from an evaluation conducted in a low-income, high risk area in Atlanta were used to tests these mechanisms. This study found that these processes are complex and depend on the outcome variable being assessed. Specifically, future orientation mediated the association between supportive adult relationships and problem behaviors, but moderated the association between supportive adult relationships and academic achievement. In the mediation model, supportive adult relationships were associated with decreases in problem behaviors through its association with future orientation. In the moderation model, among youth with a low future orientation, supportive adult relationships were associated with increases in school grades. This study also found that future orientation interacted with gender associations, such that among youth with high future orientation, girls had higher school grades and among youth with low future orientation, girls engaged in more problem behaviors. This study has implications for future research on future orientation, youth development prevention and intervention programming, and policy around low-income youth.


Included in

Psychology Commons