What is Emerging Adulthood? And Why It Explains Your TwentiesPosted on July 12th, 2011
That’s academician speak for: “This adult shoot ain’t easy“. Thus why the theory of Emerging Adulthood is so important and became much of the research behind THE All Groan Up that you are currently eye-frolicking on.
The theory of Emerging Adulthood is like a group of scholars rummaged through you and I’s Millennial, GenY trash one night and then presented back to us our own mail in a way that made more sense then when we read it ourselves.
So what is Emerging Adulthood?
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Ph.D is the leading scholar behind Emerging Adulthood, which in a nutshell suggests that the majority of twentysomethings in Westernized cultures go through a specific sort of ambiguous waiting period between the transition from adolescence to adult. The typical “adult” markers of leaving home, getting married, and having children, are no longer the indicators that you have boarded the Adult Train.
Instead, when Arnett surveyed twentysomethings the top three characteristics of becoming an adult as selected by twentysomethings were: accepting personal responsibility, making decisions apart from other influences, and financial independence from parents.
With so many twentysomethings moving back in with their parents, delaying marriage, switching jobs, moving, etc, the transition into adulthood has become delayed and subjective, no longer the black-and-white-leave-home-start-a-family-work-one-career, as it was in the past.
Some Facts of Emerging Adulthood
The questions, confusion, and exploration of career is a huge factor in emerging adulthood and feelings of crisis in your twenties (Arnett, 2000). With this pressure to find the right career and rapid layoffs for emerging adults with little work experience,
American emerging adults find themselves “switching jobs nearly every year for a decade” (Arnett, 2008)
As well, emerging adults find themselves not exactly fitting within today’s working climate. In today’s economic crisis world wide there is little need for emerging adults to enter into the workforce as Baby Boomers hold off from retirement as they watch their 401k’s plummet and they redefine what retirement should look like. Therefore, emerging adult’s bachelor’s degree does not go far and they feel the pressure to return for further schooling and training, thus delaying a sense of stability (Arnett, 2007).
Lost and Found Identity
One of the main struggles of emerging adulthood pinpointed by research is the feeling of lost identity and self-definition amongst emerging adults. Atwood and Scholtz in Contemporary Family Therapy explain that growing up emerging adults received their self-worth through external success and accolades, so when those are removed so is their sense of worth.
Historically identity was defined in adolescence. Today identity is possibly being formed in emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2008). Emerging adults are on an intense search for personal authenticity, awareness, and personal definition. Robbins and Wilner in their book Quarterlife Crisis state that twenties are ripe with self-doubt and intense with introspection in which a college education did not necessary prepare twentysomethings for.
Leave Me Alone
Emerging Adults spend more time alone than any persons except the elderly (Arnett, 2000). In the most technologically connected generation in the history of the world, it intrigues me to no end that we are spending less physical time with real, live, human beings.
To Faith or Not to Faith
A revaluation of faith and beliefs is a central part of emerging adulthood (Shuster and Mongetta, 2009). Yet during this period, emerging adults are less likely to be involved in religious institutions and disengage from the faith of their childhood and family background (Barry and Nelson, 2008; Arnett and Jensen, 2002).
Why Emerging Adulthood Matters
As I digested Emerging Adulthood nothing tasted so sweet and fulfilling – like eating an entire cheesecake without any of the guilt or gas. Because we’ve been told our whole lives to just keep climbing those stairs. Emerging Adulthood is what happens when we actually get off the stairs and start exploring — all the dead ends and wrong turns included.
So if becoming a real live adult has not been as straightforward as you thought it would, well you my emerging adult friend, are not alone.
Please share your experience with Emerging Adulthood via the comments below
References (Ain’t I fancy)
Arnett, J.J. (1998). Learning to stand alone: The contemporary American transition to adulthood in cultural and historical context. Human Development, 41, 295–315.
Arnett, J.J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469–480.
Arnett, J.J. (2002). A Congregation of one: Individualized religious beliefs among emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 17(5), 451-467
Arnett, J. J. (2006). Emerging adulthood: Understanding the new way of coming of age. In J. J. Arnett & J. L. Tanner (Eds.), Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the 21st century. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.
Atwood, J.D. and Scholtz, C. The Quarter-life Time Period: An Age of Indulgence, Crisis or Both?. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 30(4), 233-250.
Barry, C and Nelson, L (2008). The role of religious beliefs and practices on emerging adults’ perceived competencies, perceived importance ratings, and global self-worth . International Journal of Behavioral Development, 32(6), 509-521.
Robbins and Wilner, (2001). The Quarterlife Crisis. New York: Putnam.
Shuster, M and Mongetta, J (2009). The influence of a small Christian university’s culture on selected characteristics of emerging adulthood. Journal of Research on Christian Education, 18, 206–234.