Monday, December 21, 2009

Song "Second Chance" Has EA Themes

Jeff Arnett e-mailed me about a song, "Second Chance," from the group Shinedown. I must confess that I hadn't heard of either the song or the group. A video of the song is available via the group's website and the lyrics can be seen here.

Jeff writes of the song that, "It's a powerful dramatization of a point I've made in my 2004 book, that for EAs with a troubled family life, leaving home is often a way for them to make great changes for the better in their lives" (see pp. 50-51).

Having now listened to the song, I think it also illustrates the self-focus element of emerging adulthood, the point at which a young person transitions to taking full responsibility for him or herself. Here are some sample lyrics:

Tell my mother,
Tell my father
I've done the best I can
To make them realize
This is my life


I'm not afraid of
What I have to say
This is my one and
Only voice

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Parental Assistance to Grown Children

The December issue of Journal of Marriage and Family includes an article by Karen Fingerman and colleagues entitled "Giving to the Good and the Needy: Parental Support of Grown Children" (abstract, press release from Purdue University). The theme of today's young people receiving greater assistance and for longer periods of time than their counterparts from previous generations is not new. What's interesting about this new article is that the greatest amount of parental aid (emotional as well as material) flowed not just to children having the most trouble making the transition to adulthood, but also to the most successful ones. The authors suggested that parents may assist successful children to bask in the latter's achievements (and their own childrearing) or to sew the seeds for the child to assist the parents in their old age.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Economy-Induced Boomerang Children

Today's New York Times has an article entitled "Economy Is Forcing Young Adults Back Home in Big Numbers, Survey Finds." The article focuses primarily on a new study by the Pew Research Center, including the finding that, "Ten percent of adults younger than 35... moved back in with their parents because of the recession." Here's a link to the original Pew report.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ages at Which Laws Consider Individuals to be Adult

Several articles have recently appeared on the question of what age (or ages) should delineate the onset of adulthood for purposes of rights and responsibilities under the law. The outlets in which these articles have appeared include the New York Times, the American Psychologist, and the policy wonkish Governing magazine.

The emergence of these articles coincides with a currently pending U.S. Supreme Court case on whether it is constitutional to impose a life sentence for a crime other than murder that was committed as a juvenile. Beyond court cases, however, the issue of legal cut-off ages is fascinating and challenging in its own right. According to the Times article:

At the heart of the argument lies a vexing question: When should a person be treated as an adult?

The answer, generally, is 18 — the age when the United States, and the rest of the world, considers young people capable of accepting responsibility for their actions. But there are countless deviations from this benchmark, both around the world (the bar mitzvah, for instance), and within the United States.

For drinking, driving, fighting in the military, compulsory schooling, watching an R-rated movie, consenting to sex, getting married, having an abortion or even being responsible for your own finances, the dawn of adulthood in America is all over the place.

Among the factors complicating this debate is that different cognitive and behavioral abilities -- corresponding to different policy objectives -- may, on average, crystallize at different ages. The aforementioned American Psychologist article by Laurence Steinberg and colleagues contends, for example, that factual, logical abilities solidify earlier than impulse-control mechanisms.

One approach to addressing these challenges is to phase in legal rights gradually or contingent on parental approval. Examples include "graduated" driving privileges and the mimimum ages at which young people can marry.

I invite readers who have opinions on this topic to add comments to this posting!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"The 40-Something Dependent Child"

The New York Times, in its "Room for Debate" forum, recently featured the topic, "The 40-Something Dependent Child." In the first part, the Times solicited the opinions of scholars and authors as to why many young people are taking longer than in past generations to establish their own financial independence. In the second part, Times readers share their views.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Business Week Examines Economically "Lost Generation"

Business Week magazine's October 19 issue featured a cover story entitled "The Lost Generation." As the article notes:

Affected are a range of young people, from high school dropouts, to college grads, to newly minted lawyers and MBAs across the developed world from Britain to Japan. One indication: In the U.S., the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds has climbed to more than 18%, from 13% a year ago.

Further, as detailed in the article, negative consequences of these employment problems include depressed lifetime earnings, low worker morale, and stress and mental health problems.

An accompanying article evaluates the merits of Germany's apprenticeship system for youth who pursue early job training as opposed to higher education and professional careers. One young man featured in the article "g[ave] up full-time schooling at age 15" for a training program that involved "alternating two weeks of on-the-job training with one week of classes at a vocational school." In addition to heating, plumbing, and air-conditioning, other tracks "rang[e] from baker to hair stylist and bank clerk to video editor." The article notes many benefits of the apprenticeship system, but also some risks, especially in a global economic downturn.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Invincible" Young Adults' Lack of Health Insurance

Yahoo! News has just reprinted a TIME magazine article on young adults' widespread lack of health-insurance coverage and the implications of this situation for the ongoing congressional efforts to enact health care reform.

According to the article, one-third of 19-29 year-olds lack coverage. The reasons are varied: "These young adults are less likely to be offered employer-based coverage, earn less money to buy insurance on their own, are generally healthy and spend little time worrying about the worst-case scenarios that could befall them."

The last reason cited, regarding the mindset of many emerging adults, is probably the most interesting one to human development scholars, many of whom are interested in risk-taking and cognitive processes in adolescents and young adults. This perspective has not escaped the attention of policymakers, either. The article notes that, "A draft of the [Senate] Finance Committee's bill calls for a new category of health insurance specifically designed for what it calls 'young invincibles.'"

So imperative do experts consider health-insurance enrollment of young adults -- "to help spread out risk and keep older Americans' premiums from going even higher" -- that the legislation may ultimately include provisions to fine individuals who don't sign up for insurance packages that are offered. The hope, in the words of a Finance Committee aide quoted in the article, is that young adults will think, "You are still paying $950 for nothing or you pay a little bit more for something."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Marriage Go Round" of Coupling/Marrying/Splitting Up

Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin's new book, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today, focuses on the high rate of couple and family turnover in the U.S. Though the book's focus is on Americans' high rates of marriage, divorce, and re-partnering, Cherlin also addresses how the transition to adulthood in contemporary America may be linked with marital dynamics.

An illustrative statistic Cherlin cites is the percentage of women in different countries who have "three or more live-in partners (married or cohabiting) by age thirty-five" (p. 19). In the U.S., it's 10%, whereas in other English-speaking nations (those in Europe, as well as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), none was higher than 4.5%.

Early on, Cherlin states that, "The journey from adolescence to adulthood, so clear at mid [20th] century, is now a long slog filled with choices... We have gone from a lockstep pattern of getting married young, then having children, and for the most part staying married, to a bewildering set of alternatives..." (pp. 7-8).

Cherlin theorizes that contemporary trends in American marital/coupling behavior derive from two salient motivations in this country -- the desire to marry and the quest for "expressive individualism" (p. 9). The latter, which Cherlin identifies as a twentieth-century phenomenon, involves individuals' concerns with lifelong personal growth, which could propel some people to leave their marriages if they consider them psychologically and emotionally stagnant. The idea of constructing one's life to express and reflect one's personal values, of course, is a central facet of the concept of emerging adulthood.

The book's remaining analysis of young-adulthood transitions largely occurs through the lens of social class. Notes Cherlin, "What we are seeing is the emergence of two different ways of shooting the rapids of the transition to adulthood -- the process of completing one's education, developing a career, having children, and finding a lasting, intimate partnership. Among the college-educated, we see a more orderly, predictable sequence of events, one that has fewer changes of partners" (p. 167).

Among the college-educated, Cherlin states, a typical sequence is followed. These individuals will oftentimes finish school, take jobs, work for several years, get married (often after a period of cohabitation), then have children. In contrast, "[t]he strategy that many young adults in the bottom third of the educational distribution, and some in the middle third, use is to have children earlier, sometimes in a cohabiting relationship, sometimes as a lone parent... The marriages that do form among the less-educated are precarious. Over the past two or three decades, the divorce rate has fallen for women with college educations while remaining steady or rising for women without college degrees" (pp. 167-168).

Questions of cause and effect in family studies are always salient, because relevant processes are often difficult or impossible to manipulate experimentally (e.g., the effect of having children on marital satisfaction). Cherlin's book also delves into causality issues, which I summarize on my correlation-causality blog.

Yet another valuable aspect of the book is its discussion of family policy. This content will be helpful each time I teach Family Law and Public Policy. In short, although I purchased the book myself, I've found The Marriage-Go-Round to be a gift that keeps on giving!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New College Grads' Employment Difficulties

This article in the University of North Carolina's Daily Tar Heel provides some national statistics on 2009 college graduates' difficulty of lining up jobs, compared to their 2007 and 2008 counterparts. Also, in support of common folk wisdom, a weak job market appears to be associated with greater student interest in graduate school.

“Right now we’re looking at around 39 percent, and typically we’re in the 25 percent range,” [UNC career services official Tim] Stiles said. “People want to park themselves in some graduate programs for the next few years to kind of ride things out.”

Much of the research on emerging adulthood implies that young people often voluntarily pursue post-graduate education in order to compete for "information age" jobs and to give themselves more time to "find themselves." In the present economic situation, the pursuit of additional education appears to be out of necessity in many cases.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Entry of "Trophy Kids" into Workforce

For those interested in emerging adults' entry into the corporate workforce, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace, a recent book by Wall Street Journal writer Ron Alsop, is for you.

Drawing upon personal interviews -- with personnel/hiring managers, college career advisors, recent college graduates, and their parents -- and data from various surveys, Alsop examines the Millenials' (defined as individuals born between 1980–2001) arrival in the workforce. Whereas some of the findings in the book may apply to broad cross-sections of Millenials, others are probably more reflective of what Richard Florida calls the "Creative Class."

Fairly or unfairly, the Millenial generation has been labeled with a number of unflattering traits, such as having a sense of entitlement and being "high-maintenance." More favorably, the Millenials also seem to be inclined to volunteerism and social causes.

To me, one overarching trait that appeared to capture much about the Millenials is resistance to boundaries.

*They feel they should be able to work from home, rather than in the office, as long as long as they complete their tasks (the term ROWE, for Results-Oriented Work Environment, comes up, as exemplified by electronics/appliance chain Best Buy).

*They feel they should be able to be promoted at any time, based on work performance, and not according to strict timetables.

*They feel they should be able to talk personally with high-ranking officials in the corporation (and even call them by their first names, in some instances).

*They have no problem bringing their parents into work- and school-related matters (not that the parents are reluctant to insert themselves into these situations, either).

Many of these behaviors drive employers crazy, Alsop notes. However, faced with a need to bring in cadres of talented young employees to keep the company functioning and vibrant, businesses are forced to make some accommodation to the Millenials.

One must acknowledge the distinction between developmental changes in the transition to adulthood that presumably are largely invariant from generation to generation, on the one hand, and phenomena that appear to be unique to a particular generation, on the other. The book clearly seems to emphasize the latter. Still, I've already added quotations from The Trophy Kids to update my online lecture notes for the next time I teach Development in Young Adulthood. I'll have to caution my students that much of the material might be described more accurately as Development [of One Generation] in Young Adulthood.

Chapter 1 of The Trophy Kids is available free online at the above-linked webpage for the book.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Formative Eras in Young Adults' Development of Party Identification

Nate Silver of the politics/statistics website Five Thirty Eight has some graphs up, based on recent Gallup surveying. The most interesting graph, to me, is the one that plots current (early 2009) party identification (Democratic lead over Republican) on the y-axis, as a function of respondent's current age, on the x-axis. To bring out the key message, however, the graph adds color shading and name labels to show who was president when the respondent was 18 (e.g., someone who is 42 years old today would have been 18 in 1985, when Reagan was president).

The Democrats have greater party ID than the GOP in all age groups today, but the margin varies quite a bit. Among respondents whose 18th birthday coincided with George W. Bush's presidency, the Democratic party ID edge is huge, upwards of 18%. On the other hand, those who were 18 at some point during the generally successful and popular presidency of Ronald Reagan (until scandal hit in his sixth year in office) are roughly equally distributed in their support for the two parties (which is as good as things get for the GOP today).

These findings suggest that the late teens and early adulthood may be formative times for lifelong political affiliations. The graph in question is the second one down you'll see after clicking here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

2009 EA Conference Call for Papers

Information is now available online for submitting papers to the 4th biennial (roughly) Emerging Adulthood research conference. The conference will be held October 29-30, 2009, in Atlanta Georgia. Paper proposals are due on May 1st, 2009.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Young People's "Sense of Possibility" Constrained by Structural Factors

One part of Jeffrey Arnett's conceptualization of emerging adulthood is that it is a time of life that carries a sense of possibility. Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Outliers: The Story of Success, suggests that the possibilities open to someone can be greatly enhanced or curtailed by some quite arbitrary factors.

Among other examples, Gladwell discusses the Canadian youth hockey policy of placing players on purportedly uniform-age teams based on how old they are as of January 1. If a player's birthday happens to be January 2, he (or perhaps she) will immediately be older than the rest of the team, especially relative to someone whose birthday is in December. As a result of being older -- and potentially also physically stronger and larger -- than most other players, those players born early in the year will get to play more, develop better skills, get selected for all-star teams that expose them to better coaching and provide more practice opportunity, etc. As Gladwell documents, the apparent upshot of using the arbitrary marker of someone's birth month as an organizing principle for youth hockey is that, across various levels of competitive hockey in Canada, team rosters are comprised disproportionately of players born in January, February, and March.

Likewise, Gladwell suggests that there were optimal historical times (usually in years, not months) and places to grow up if one wanted to be a success at computer software development, corporate takeover law, garment manufacturing and sales, and other endeavors. Tying all of this back to emerging adulthood, Gladwell writes the following:

The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with (p. 137).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Television Programming Trends Regarding Young Adults

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article on how television networks may be moving away from demographic targeting of young adults in their programming, in favor of family-oriented, "big tent" fare that appeals to all ages. In other words, we may see fewer shows inspired by "Friends" and "Seinfeld," and more modeled after "The Cosby Show" and "Everybody Loves Raymond." Though the 18-49 year-old "young adult" demographic that's previously been targeted extends well beyond what we would consider emerging adulthood, many of the points in the article mesh well with the study of EA.

As previously discussed on this blog and elsewhere, characteristics of emerging adulthood include openness to novelty and experimentation. For this reason, television executives, marketers, and advertisers will never lose touch completely with the 18-49 demographic, according to the article:

None of this means, of course, that the 18-to-49 yardstick is about to become as obsolete as rabbit-ear antennas. Young people remain the most important early adopters of new products and cultural trends. Their purchase decisions are vital to marketers in such big categories as consumer technology, movies and cars.

Another oft-cited theory for why young-adult viewers are important, namely that of establishing lifelong brand loyalty, does not appear to have much support in the media/advertising community:

The idea was that "if you bought Crest toothpaste when you were 18 years old, when you turned 50 you would still use Crest toothpaste," [CBS chief Leslie] Moonves said.

Indeed, [media analyst Steve] Sternberg and others said they knew of no reliable studies backing that theory.

One final point that jumped out at me from the article was the discussion of how increasing life-expectancies are changing notions of age-appropriateness:

Also, Moonves adds, "a 50-year-old today is different than a 50-year-old 25 years ago. The life expectancy is longer; the boomers are doing more in their 50s, they're experiencing more. It's a very different generation."