Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
Non-cognitive resources (NCRs) may play a critical role in the development of socioeconomic disparities in health. However, little is known about the mechanisms through which NCRs influence health, and how these associations vary by socioeconomic status. This dissertation investigates how NCRs are formed in adolescence and young adulthood, and how NCRs relate to life course socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and physical health. Chapter two investigates the role of early life factors in shaping NCRS over the life course by examining differences in NCR ability by adolescent socioeconomic status, school-level contextual factors, and family relationship quality. Chapter three examines how NCR change is associated with health behaviors in young adulthood, including an exploration of the moderating effects of socioeconomic status (SES). Finally, chapter four investigates how NCR change is associated with physiological functioning in young adulthood, including an examination of how this association varies by SES, and whether variations in health behaviors account for some of the disparities in physical health by NCR change.
The findings from chapter two reveal that NCRs are malleable during the transition to adulthood, and that the extent of this malleability is strongest for planfulness and active problem solving ability. The findings from chapter two also demonstrate that life course SES is associated with the development of NCRs. Chapters three and four show that increasing planfulness is associated with a decreased likelihood of engaging in two or more health risk behaviors, and with a decreased likelihood of elevated CRP. The findings also demonstrate that the protective association of planfulness is weaker among low-SES individuals, showing support for the disabling hypothesis. Increasing attractive personality during the transition to adulthood is associated with a decreased likelihood of metabolic syndrome. The protective association of attractive personality is stronger for low-SES individuals, showing support for the resource substitution hypothesis. The findings suggest that NCRs may be important resources to intervene on to enhance health in later life. However, improving NCRs without addressing structural circumstances that make it harder to enact health-related goals may not diminish existing SES health disparities.