Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Activity Status, Life Satisfaction and Perceived Productivity for Young Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Activity Status, Life Satisfaction and Perceived Productivity for Young Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Article excerpt

As young adults with disabilities age out of public school and related service programs, their transition to a developmentally appropriate activity status, such as employment or further schooling, may be difficult to achieve (White, 1997). Population data on school drop-out rates of special education students versus other students, and on employment rates of young adults with and without disabilities, consistently show large disparities that document the difficulty of the transition process (Ireys, Salkever, Kolodner, & Bijur, 1996; Wagner & Blackorby, 1996;).

A variety of activity status outcomes of the transition process are possible. Paid employment outcomes vary widely in hours of work, level of community integration, and job content, and these variations may have implications for continued personal development. Young adults often report combinations of activities, such as schooling and volunteer work, or paid employment and housework. Thus a simple dichotomy of employed vs. not employed is a very incomplete description of this variety of activity status outcomes, and a number of writers have emphasized the value of a broader range of outcome measures (Fairweather & Shaver, 1990; Halpern, 1985; Halpern, Yovanoff, Doren & Benz, 1995).

There is also a growing emphasis, in the literatures on transition and program evaluation, on the importance of assessing outcomes with measures that relate to quality of life (Borthwick-Duffy, 1996; Chubon, 1987; Dennis, Williams, Giangreco & Cloninger, 1993; Halpern, 1993; Landesman, 1986; Vandergriff & Chubon, 1994). Three broad perspectives on quality of life have been identified (Dennis, Williams, Giangreco & Cloninger, 1993; Schalock, 1996), based on psychological indicators, social indicators, and goodness-of-fit indicators. Comprehensive quality-of-life measures, which combine several or all of these three perspectives, have been applied in empirical research (e.g., Schalock, Keith, Hoffman, & Karan, 1989).

Psychological indicators of quality of life (i.e., indicators based on subjective feelings and perceptions) are particularly interesting for several reasons. First, their use emphasizes the importance of the individual's own evaluation of their situation and thus reinforces the priority of self-determination as a societal goal. Second, the strong relationships between quality of life measures, perceived self-worth, and psychological problems such as depression have been widely recognized in empirical studies (Lehman, 1983; Yesavage, et al., 1983; Link et al., 1993; Pyne et al., 1997; Skinner et al., 1999). Third, unlike social-indicator measures that simply add in employment status as one component of an overall quality of life score, psychological measures are not necessarily related to any particular activity status outcome as a result of simple arithmetic.

The previous empirical literature relating activity status to psychological indicators of quality of life, however, is very sparse. (For a recent contribution and references to other studies, see Clayton and Chubon (1994).) Additional empirical evidence of this relationship can inform future efforts to assess a broad range of activity status outcomes, and to evaluate transition service programs that impact on these outcomes. The present study uses data from a large national survey of persons with developmental disabilities to derive empirical evidence on the links between activity status and psychological quality-of-life measures. It focuses specifically on respondents in the age range from 16 to 27. The indicators of activity status include paid employment, housework, schooling, volunteer work, and idleness (defined as the absence of all the activities just noted). Quality of life measures describe respondents' perceptions about life satisfaction and their own productivity. The specific research questions addressed are the following:

1. Are differences in activity status related to significant differences in self-perceived quality of life and self-perceived productivity? …

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