Background: This exploratory qualitative study explored the life experiences of young adults who participated in a cohort study in their child care center 26 years ago.The purpose of the study was to: (1) Describe the life trajectories of study participants who exhibited the extremes of high or low cardiovascular reactivity during their preschool ages. (2) Identify the life courses, processes, or outcomes for these young adults. (3) Describe exemplar cases of children with high and low reactivity who illustrated patterns of resilience or vulnerability.
Methods: Eight out of the 137 children who had combinations of extreme high or low reactivity and environmental adversity were identified and interviewed by a blinded researcher. Data were analyzed through iterative coding, development of major categories, matrix analysis and thematic analysis.
Results: The overall theme for all of the participants was facing challenges, and moving forward. The major categories which showed some variation between those with high and low reactivity were developing sources of support, overcoming adversity, and finding satisfaction/ dissatisfaction with life.
Conclusion: These life histories provide a further understanding of how biologic sensitivity to challenges identified early in life may have impacted participants' trajectories from preschool to young adulthood, and indicate that further study would be warranted across the life course.