Thursday, December 20, 2007

National Public Radio Segment on EA

Early this morning, National Public Radio ran a segment on Emerging Adulthood, including quotes from Jeff Arnett. Click here to listen to the piece.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Young Voters' Candidate Preferences as 2008 Campaign Heats Up

One of the topics I like to discuss on this blog is emerging adults' political views and, with the 2008 presidential primary season getting underway soon, a recent poll provides some interesting findings.

According to an article on the "Politico" website, a Harvard Institute of Politics survey of 18-24 year-olds nationally shows a difference in the preferences of Democratic-leaning respondents, based on whether or not they're attending college:

[Barack] Obama leads [Hillary] Clinton 43 percent to 23 percent among current college students — but Clinton leads Obama among youth who never enrolled in college, 38 percent to 31 percent.

The Politico article also notes expert opinion on why these results may have emerged:

John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Institute of Politics, says that the disparity reflects a class divide. Just as Obama does better among students, he does better among young people from wealthier families. Young Democrats from lower-income families are more likely to favor Clinton, according to Della Volpe.

“Clinton is seen as more of a traditional lunch-pail Democrat,” said Della Volpe. “She is concerned with domestic issues.”

Iowa State University sociology professor Bill Woodman, whose students have studied the campaign, is also quoted to the effect that, "supporting Obama has picked up a self-perpetuating cool factor on campus."

The report of the survey directly from the Harvard IOP also discussed the candidate preferences of Republican-leaning 18-24 year-olds, but the college/non-college distinction is not highlighted.

The inclusion of young people not attending college, as well as their college counterparts, is an important element of the IOP survey. Given that social scientists are heavily based at universities, college students are a readily available population to study. The relative exclusion of same-age non-college individuals from research studies has led many scholars to label this group the "Forgotten Half" (click here for an example).

Only by studying both college- and non-college-bound youth can research on Emerging Adulthood reach its full potential.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Special Journal Series on EA Around the World

The Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) has established a new journal this year, called Child Development Perspectives. The December issue includes a special series of articles (11 in all), under the rubric "Emerging Adulthood Around the World" (Table of Contents).

Consistent with the theme, several articles report on EA in different regions and countries of the world. There's also a debate between Jeffrey Arnett, who first proposed the specific stage of EA in 2000, and EA critics Leo B. Hendry and Marion Kloep.

From my initial skimming of several of the articles, they appear to provide a lot of interesting material on EA, and where it should go from here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Article on Measuring Progression Through EA

The article that I wrote with Jeff Arnett and my Texas Tech faculty colleague Malinda Colwell, introducing our Inventory of the Dimensions of Emerging Adulthood (IDEA) measure and providing reliability and validity information, has now been published. The article appears in the Summer 2007 issue of the Journal of Youth Development, a relatively new online publication (see links section on the right). We hope EA researchers will find the article and measure to be useful. Practical applications for families and educators are also discussed in the article.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Congressional Group Studies Issues Affecting Young Adults

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has created a "30 Something Working Group" within her party's caucus. Although the participating House members are older than what would generally be considered the Emerging Adulthood range, the working group appears to be focusing its agenda toward young adults pretty broadly (also, one must be at least 25 years old to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, so individuals in the traditional EA range of 18-25 years old would be almost entirely ineligible to run). According to the 30 Something group's mission statement:

These Members are committed to engaging the next generation of Americans further in government and the political process. "30 Something" Members seek to talk and listen to young Americans about the issues they care about and how Congress can better represent their opinions on those issues.

Among the specific issues mentioned on the 30 Somethings' website are college cost reduction and raising the minimum wage, both of which are important to large numbers of young people who are transitioning to adulthood.

I also checked the website of Republican floor leader John Boehner and didn't find any signs of a similar project within the GOP.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Risky Behavior and EA

The "Life" section in today's USA Today featured an article entitled "Walking the tightrope of the 20s: Risky behavior doesn't end with teen years."

Those of you who've studied Emerging Adulthood (EA) in some depth probably will find little that is new in this article. However, for those seeking an introduction to the themes of EA, I think the article could be very useful.

Three of the main themes touched upon include:

*Demographic trends: "Young people today are delaying settling down into careers and marriage..."

*How individuals in the early 20-ish, EA years are largely free from constraints. One observer is quoted as saying that, "There are no parents telling them, 'You can't do this.' It's pretty much a free-for-all." The article also notes that, "All sorts of research suggests that by the late 20s, risky behavior drops among young adults, largely because that's when they pair up and begin to settle down with a career and a partner."

*The brain-development aspect: "Over the past several years, brain studies by researchers around the country... have found that the area that controls impulses takes longer to mature than previously thought."

Jeffrey Arnett and a number of other researchers also are quoted.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

National Survey of 17-29 Year-Olds

Today's New York Times reports the results of a national survey of 17-29 year-olds, conducted by the Times along with CBS News and MTV. As I've noted before in conjunction with NY Times articles, free full-text access may disappear after a few days, so if you're at a university or other library that subscribes to Lexis/Nexis, that may be the best way to access the article in the long term.

Headlined "New Poll Finds That Young Americans Are Leaning Left," the article focuses on political opinions and presidential candidate preferences for 2008. One of the more interesting findings, in my view, was the following:

By any measure, the poll suggests that young Americans are anything but apathetic about the presidential election. Fifty-eight percent said they were paying attention to the campaign. By contrast, at this point in the 2004 presidential campaign, 35 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they were paying a lot or some attention to the campaign.

A supplemental PDF document listing all the questions and the response frequencies for each question's possible choices also provides a nice snapshot of the emerging adult population of the U.S., beyond political preferences.

For example, 22% of respondents were married, 73% never-married, and the rest divorced or separated. Thirty-one percent of the sample reported having children. In terms of highest educational level yet achieved, the sample was virtually evenly split between high school diploma or less, and at least some college.

In response to a question about networking websites such as MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook, 56% of participants reported having their own page, 15% had only visited such pages, and 30% had not visited any.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tattoo Removal as a Reflection of EA and Transition to Adulthood

An interesting article on tattoo removal has just come out in the New York Times, entitled "Erasing Tattoos, Out of Regret or Simply to Get a Fresh Canvas" (by Natasha Singer, June 17, 2007). I'm not sure how long the article link will work, but those of you at universities that subscribe to Lexis/Nexis may be able to access the article that way in the future, via the citation I've provided.

Nowhere in the article does the team "emerging adulthood" appear. However, based on some of the age statistics cited and the comments of people interviewed for the article, EA-relevant themes appear to lurk beneath the surface. Here's one passage, for example:

Most of Dr. Tattoff’s [not the name of a real doctor, but rather of a tattoo-removal service] clients are women ages 25 to 35, said James Morel, the chief executive of the company, which has given more than 13,000 tattoo laser treatments since opening here in 2004. “Maybe women are getting more tattoos than they used to,” Mr. Morel said, “or maybe they just have a higher level of tattoo regret than men.”

Aside from the gender aspect, the 25-35 age-range dovetails well with when the exploratory/experimentation-oriented years of emerging adulthood should be ending and more "serious" pursuits are being undertaken.

A quote from tattoo-removal client David Donch of New Jersey reinforces that theme:

Mr. Donch said the treatments felt like rubber bands being snapped against his skin but that it was worth it. “As I am getting older and planning to start a family and get my teaching certificate, I am more aware that appearances are important,” Mr. Donch said.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Book Review: Pledged

I have just finished reading the book Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, by Alexandra Robbins. The book is a few years old (2004) and I was able to get a copy from a bookstore's discount shelf.

Robbins has strong connections to the study of Emerging Adulthood, having co-authored (with Abby Wilner), the 2001 book Quarterlife Crisis, which studies difficulties in the transition from college to the labor force. In connection with this book, Robbins appeared on a radio show with Jeffrey Arnett (see links section on the right of this page).

Participation in a sorority would seem to be a life experience that may affect -- for better or for worse -- a young woman's transition to adulthood, perhaps via some of the mechanisms discussed in the Emerging Adulthood literature. However, Robbins does not devote much discussion to individual development until the latter parts of the book, when she reflects upon how the sorority sisters she followed (whose names were disguised) may have changed over the course of the year.

One exception to the dearth of EA-related content is Robbins's examination of sorority members' potential for identity development. Not only do there appear to be rampant conformity pressures in the houses; from a given sorority's national office on down, there are numerous traditions, requirements, and expectations. Writes Robbins:

The danger of sororities, it became clear, is that instead of enhancing a girl's identity as she shifts from her formative years toward adulthood, the sisterhood could have a tendency to swallow that identity altogether (p. 175).

Another salient theme within EA is self-focus, as one takes on greater responsibilities and becomes more self-sufficient than before. It is here, in dealing with personality clashes, house politics, and substantial time demands, that sorority members may profit as they they move into the "real world." As Robbins conveys two sisters' thoughts on their own transformation during the past year:

"The way I see it, [these negatives are] just a part of life. I feel like from now on, I'm always going to have to juggle commitments and somehow you have to make them work out. So this is practice, I guess," [Sabrina] said. "Maybe once I'm in the real world I'll have an easier time being independent than my sisters" (p. 302; the phrase "these negatives are" was inserted by Robbins, the name "Sabrina" was inserted by me).

Caitlin concluded that she had changed more this year than any other year in her life. She had finally learned that at some point she simply had to give up her futile efforts to please her mother. It had taken an extraordinary amount of turmoil for her to feel like she was finally growing up, and now that she had wrestled with so many issues, it dawned on her that she was gradually starting to become what she had always pretended to be on the outside but was not truly until now. She was becoming -- she thought -- strong (p. 314).

Never having been involved with the Greek system myself, I saw Pledged as an interesting window into what, at some colleges and universities, is a major factor in campus life. That's not to say that Pledged offers a representative portrait of every sorority in the country, or even of the ones Robbins reported on. As a vehicle to study human development, the book is sporadic, at best. The subject matter is inherently interesting, in my view, and also offers a rich view of group dynamics.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Romantic Trends: Seeking Perfection in a Mate, But Also Hooking Up

One of the central ideas of Emerging Adulthood is that young people are taking longer to explore and settle into fully adult roles, than in past generations. One example of this is the increase in the median age at first marriage in the U.S.

Jeffrey Arnett, whose writings introduced the term "Emerging Adulthood" and the set of ideas for studying it, was quoted as follows in a 2005 TIME magazine article on "twixters," a group similar to emerging adults (see page 5 of article).

Arnett is worried that if anything, twixters are too romantic. In their universe, romance is totally detached from pragmatic concerns and societal pressures, so when twixters finally do marry, they're going to do it for Love with a capital L and no other reason. "Everybody wants to find their soul mate now," Arnett says, "whereas I think, for my parents' generation—I'm 47—they looked at it much more practically. I think a lot of people are going to end up being disappointed with the person that's snoring next to them by the time they've been married for a few years and they realize it doesn't work that way."

Another trend among young people in recent years is the phenomenon of "hooking up," as described in this article and a new book cited therein. Hooking up is consistent with the idea that many emerging adults want to delay the establishment of serious romantic relationships -- perhaps to devote more energy to their careers -- but still want to enjoy some physical affection.

One of our graduate students at Texas Tech is planning to start some research on hooking up and Emerging Adulthood.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Tucson Youth Club Promotes Civic Engagement

At last month's Emerging Adulthood conference in Tucson, Arizona (see summary in my previous posting below), a speaker in the same session with me gave a presentation on how a Tucson youth club helps to promote civic engagement and empowerment in young people. University of Arizona researcher Joyce Serido, whose co-author was Lynne Borden, gave a talk at the conference entitled, "From Program Participant To Community Activist: A Developmental Journey." The abstract from the EA conference talk is available here, alphabetically within the letter S, whereas the abstract from a similar presentation elsewhere is available here (bottom of p. 11).

In the Q & A session after the talks, several audience members wanted to know more about the youth club at the center of Joyce's presentation. In response, she stated that the club is called "Skrappy's," and that it puts on performances by music bands, among other activities. As stated in the group's My Space page (ALL CAPS in original):



Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Photos from 3rd EA Conference

This past weekend, the 3rd biennial (more or less) conference on Emerging Adulthood was held, this time in Tucson, Arizona, near the University of Arizona campus. Previous EA conferences had been held in Miami (February 2005) and Cambridge, Massachusetts (November 2003). Abstracts from EA '07 are available here. Also, below are a few pictures I (and others) took at the '07 conference (you can click directly on the photos to enlarge them).

Pictured above, in a dark seminar room, are several members of the Texas Tech University Human Development and Family Studies contingent that attended the conference. Judy Fischer (faculty) is shown front and center. From left to right in the back row, those pictured are: Rick Herbert (graduate student), Jackie Wiersma (graduate student), myself (Alan Reifman, faculty), Bo Cleveland (faculty), and Jacki Fitzpatrick (faculty). [Note that the above photo replaces an earlier one I had up, on which the pictured individuals did not show up as well in the dark.]

This next picture shows the speakers in the session I was in.

Preliminary planning for the next Emerging Adulthood conference, in 2009, is underway. All attendees at the recent conference received a questionnaire, seeking suggestions for the next one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Welcome to Attendees of 3rd EA Conference

Welcome to attendees of the 3rd Conference on Emerging Adulthood in Tucson, Arizona! I believe this website would be of general interest to everyone involved in EA research, but in particular, those of you attending the brown bag session on teaching EA may be most likely to find classroom applications from the resources on this page.

The links column on the right puts you one click away from a variety of sources on EA and related topics. The main write-ups provide concise discussions of various topics related to EA (often with external links embedded therein). Visitors can leave comments at the end of each write-up. Entries currently available (below) include:

January 22, 2007 -- Emerging Adulthood in the Culture and Media

January 21, 2007 -- Emerging Adulthood and Substance Use

January 20, 2007 -- Introductory Message on Emerging Adulthood

If you'd like to submit a lead essay as a guest contributor, please e-mail me via my faculty website at the top of the links column.

Monday, January 22, 2007

EA in Popular Culture and Media

In addition to the academic research literature, another way I like to track Emerging Adulthood-related phenomena is through the popular culture and media. If you're watching a show featuring individuals in their early 20s (give or take a few years), there's a good chance you'll hear something that ties into an EA theme, such as identity exploration (or "finding oneself"), feeling "in-between," and seeking romantic partners. Whenever I hear such a statement, I either try to find a transcript on the web or, in the case of one television show that frequently repeats its recent episodes, I record the show the next time and write down the exact statement. Several examples follow...

In a February 2002 interview with the Associated Press, then-27 year-old singer Jewel Kilcher (usually known by just her first name), participated in the following dialogue with the reporter.

Question: You've got a big ring on your finger. Do you have some marriage plans?

Kilcher: No -- wrong finger! ... I'd like a family probably one day, but ... I don't feel like an adult quite yet.

Oprah Winfrey, on the December 9, 2003 show of Larry King Live, answered a caller's question regarding the 20s age range, in part, as follows (full transcript, see call from Boonsboro, Maryland):

...the 20s are the time when you're finding out who you are. And so if you're ever going to be lost, 24 is the time to be seeking and finding yourself. So don't -- this is what I say to people in their 20s, don't beat yourself up about it... you always feel like you're not doing enough, you're not getting ahead. You wish you were doing more, and why -- why aren't things more settled? They're not supposed to be in your 20s.

Alexandra Robbins, co-author of Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenge of Life in your Twenties, made the following observation in her appearance with Jeffrey Arnett on the Diane Rehm radio show (see links section on right to access audio of the broadcast):

...30 is the new 20

In other words, things that in earlier eras many people used to do around age 20, are now being done around age 30 (e.g., marriage, setting up own household).

Popular music is no exception to the trend, as exemplified in the following two songs.

First, there's the Britney Spears song, "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" (brought to my attention by Jeff Arnett). Note the lyrics that say:

It's time that I
Learn to face up to this on my own

Arnett (2001, Journal of Adult Development) found that most survey respondents felt criteria such as "Accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions" and "Decide on personal beliefs and values independently of parents or other influences" were necessary before one could be considered an adult.

Martina McBride's song, "This One's for the Girls," traces the process of growing into adulthood, including a reference to the difficulties that sometimes occur during the Emerging Adulthood years:

This is for all you girls about twenty-five
In a little apartment, just trying to get by
Living on, on dreams and Spaghetti-O's
Wondering where you life is gonna go

Finally, I've been collecting EA-relevant quotes from episodes of MTV's The Real World-- a show where a group of people in (roughly) their early 20s lives together in a house, with their daily lives on display to the camera.

... I think it's important for me to get rid of the party-girl side of me, so I can embrace the housewife/grown-up side of me. -- Rachel, 10/18/05 episode, Austin, TX season

Football was my life and that's really all that I knew. I was totally dedicated to it. When that didn't happen, it totally changed my life. And so, here I am now, trying to really figure out who I am. -- M.J., 2/22/05 episode, Philadelphia season

This is your youth. This is supposed to be the best time in your life, where you're trying to find yourself, find who you are, find what kind of person you want to be with. -- Cameran (to Brad) in season opener, January 2004, San Diego season

I'm definitely afraid of growing up... scared to death of it. If I had my choice, I would be 21 forever. -- Ace, 8/26/03 episode, Paris season

It's all about the conflicts between being young, and being in this awesome situation, with cool people in the very same house and wanting to act like I'm 22. The conflict between that and loving Nicole [girlfriend from before] and trying to be a grown-up. -- Kyle, 2/5/02 episode, Chicago season

I'm allowed to be scared of getting to know myself. That's what this next decade is for, right? -- Cara (age 22), 4/9/02 episode, Chicago season

Lastly, here's a picture of me, visiting the Real World Chicago house while in town for the American Psychological Association convention in August 2002 (the cast members moved out of the house several months earlier).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Alcohol and Other Substance Use in EA

One of the more active research areas in Emerging Adulthood is its relation to alcohol and other substance use. As Arnett noted in his 2000 American Psychologist article, rates of binge drinking and other risky behaviors peak within EA.

According to more recent U.S. government surveys, heavy drinking (based on a measure of consuming five or more drinks per drinking occasion) tends to be more prevalent in 18-25 year-olds than in other age groups.

Risk behavior may be linked to identity exploration, as "one reflection of the desire to obtain a wide range of experiences before settling down into the roles and responsibilities of adult life" (Arnett, 2000, p. 475).

With particular reference to higher education, Borsari and Carey (2001, Journal of Substance Abuse) contend that, "...many [students] view college as a place to drink excessively, in a time-limited fashion, before assuming the responsibilities of aduthood" (p. 392).

Finally, an article in a 2004 issue of the National Institute on Drug Abuse newsletter NIDA Notes discusses Emerging Adulthood and substance use during this period.

For further reading, see...

Chassin, L., Pitts, S.C., & Prost, J. (2002). Binge drinking trajectories from adolescence to emerging adulthood in a high-risk sample: Predictors and substance abuse outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 67-78 (abstract).

White, H.R., & Jackson, K. (2004/2005). Social and psychological influences on emerging adult drinking behavior. Alcohol Research and Health, 28, 182-190 (full-text PDF).

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Welcome to the re-launching of my Emerging Adulthood (EA) website in blog format. For the last several years, I have maintained a conventional website on EA. However, blog format offers several advantages such as the address (URL) being easier for people to remember, more visually appealing graphics, automation of the archiving function, and the opportunity for visitors to post comments.

Eventually, all the content on my previous EA site will be moved here. The links to EA-relevant pages already have been moved here, along the right-hand column. This includes a link to the Inventory of the Dimensions of Emerging Adulthood (IDEA), a questionnaire measurement instrument that I developed with Jeff Arnett and Malinda Colwell; this link is in the top section on the right-hand part of the page.

Since this is an introductory message, in a sense, it would probably be good to restate some of the definitions of Emerging Adulthood, especially for anyone who is a first-time visitor. So here goes...

Arnett (2000, in American Psychologist) proposed that the time of life roughly between ages 18-25 be considered a "distinct period" called Emerging Adulthood.

Essentially, this is a time when individuals would likely consider themselves too old to be adolescents, but not yet full-fledged adults. From the perspective of Erikson's lifespan theory, it would be like going back and inserting Emerging Adulthood in between Stages 5 and 6 on this chart. Identity and intimacy are also goals during EA, as well as during the adjacent stages. According to Arnett (2000):

Having left the dependency of childhood and adolescence, and having not yet entered the enduring responsibilities that are normative in adulthood, emerging adults often explore a variety of possible life directions in love, work, and worldviews (p. 469).

EA is likely to be most prevalent in industrialized/technological societies where high levels of education are needed to obtain prestigious/high-paying jobs -- advanced educational training thus tends to postpone marriage and having children.

I'll keep adding to this new page in the coming days, and I hope you'll become a regular visitor!