INTRODUCTION: Few studies investigated the combined patterns of individual assets (e.g., social competence, positive identity) and mental health symptoms (MHS) in adolescents. This study examined the patterns of early adolescents' individual assets and MHS and whether identified patterns were associated with later adolescents' outcomes.
METHODS: Participants were 352 (164 boys, 188 girls) adolescents who were primarily African-American and from low socioeconomic status families, participating in a prospective study of the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure from birth in the Midwest United States. Individual assets, using the Developmental Assets Profile, and MHS, using the Youth Self-Report, were assessed at age 12. Substance use, via self-report and biologic assays, early (before age 15) sexual behaviors, and behavioral adjustment were assessed at age 15.
RESULTS: Latent profile analysis indicated four distinctive profiles: low assets with elevated MHS (P1, n = 54, 15.3%); adequate assets with thought and social problems (P2, n = 84, 23.9%); low assets without MHS (P3, n = 101, 28.7%); and high assets without MHS (P4, n = 113, 32.1%). Children in the profile with high assets without MHS (P4) were more likely to have a higher IQ and to be in a more optimal environment (higher parental monitoring and less family conflict) than those in other profiles. Although profiles with MHS were associated with adolescent risk behaviors, this relationship was more pronounced for girls than for boys.
CONCLUSIONS: Girls in the low assets with elevated MHS (P1) should be a primary concern for preventive intervention. Our study demonstrates the heterogeneity of individual patterns of adaptation and maladaptation.