Perceived racial/ethnic discrimination, hope, and social connectedness: examining the predictors of future orientation among emerging adults



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Decisions made during the transitional age of 18-30, may influence the health and well being of individuals for many years to come. Perhaps more than any earlier life stages, emerging adults have the potential to explore new opportunities, develop their own autonomy, and play a more conscious role in shaping their own development, while overcoming difficulties that may have contributed to their vulnerability in an earlier period of life or the present. To date, few studies have focused on the positive or health promoting, psychosocial factors that contribute to future orientation, particularly among emerging adults. Guided by the Theory of Possible Selves and Social Capital Theory, this quantitative study explored the contribution of perceived discrimination, hope, and social connectedness to future orientation, using a web-based survey. The present study found that perceived racial/ethnic discrimination and social connectedness were significantly and hope was marginally related to the future orientation of 151 emerging adults who were current or former members of the AmeriCorps program in the state of New Mexico. The findings remained significant after controlling for race/ethnicity. Social connectedness served as a resource factor in its association between perceived racial/ethnic discrimination and the outcome of future orientation. Social connectedness also served a protective function, thereby moderating the association between perceived racial/ethnic discrimination and future orientation. Findings suggest that further examination of the potential buffering effects that may offset the negative effects of a risk, such as perceived racial/ethnic discrimination, is warranted. Attention should be given to other potential moderating and/or mediating effects in the relationship between perceived racial/ethnic discrimination and future orientation in subsequent studies. Given the uniqueness of the sample in this study, future researchers should continue to examine populations participating in programs such as AmeriCorps. Results from the current study may have important implications for the value of programs that aim to build civic engagement, social connectedness, and leadership among its members and the communities that are served.