The Future of Children is a collaborative program between the Brookings Institution (a Washington, DC "think tank") and Princeton University, focusing on child development. Along with publishing a free online journal, the Future of Children group also puts on conferences. A recent topic addressed by the program is The Transition to Adulthood, the subject of both a journal issue and a conference this past Tuesday hosted by Brookings. On the conference webpage, one can find a transcript of the proceedings, as well as an audiotape.
One of the first articles in the issue, "What's Going on with Young People Today? The Long and Twisting Path to Adulthood" (by Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray) provides a thorough, yet relatively concise, overview of the transition to adulthood in American society. As these authors note, "Becoming an adult has traditionally been understood as comprising five core transitions — leaving home, completing school, entering the workforce, getting married, and having children" (p. 20). Historical and statistical perspectives on these transitions are discussed. Other articles in the issue focus on particular domains (e.g. higher education, labor market, civic engagement, and the military), with additional articles devoted to special populations such as immigrants, high-school drop-outs, and other vulnerable groups.
Many of the articles include discussion of government policies that might help members of particular subgroups make successful transitions to adulthood. As someone who teaches courses on both Development in Young Adulthood and Family Law and Public Policy, I applaud scholars associated with The Future of Children for attempting to integrate public policy with young-adult development. With a DC-area organization as prominent as Brookings getting involved, perhaps we will see significant policy developments coming out of Capitol Hill. As I wrote about in 2007, Democrats in the U.S. House have had a "30 Something" working group to address issues affecting young adults; legislative proposals for emerging adults (primarily individuals in their 20s) can now be informed by the journal and conference proceedings organized by The Future of Children.