5 Markers of Emerging Adulthood

Photo by Angello Lopez

Next week I am speaking at the Princeton Emerging Adults Conference.  I spend more time studying adolescents 18 and under than I do emerging adults, who are generally considered to be somewhere between 18 and 25 or 18 and 29 years old.  So in preparation for the Princeton Conference, I’m re-reading some important research on emerging adults.

The term “emerging adults” was coined by Jeffrey Arnett.  In his book, Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: A Cultural Approach, he notes 5 markers of emerging adults:

  1. Identity exploration
  2. Instability
  3. Feeling in-between
  4. Self-focused
  5. Age of possibilities

Some questions that remain about this idea of emerging adulthood are:  Is this a permanent (or at least semi-permanent) change in the way adolescents transition to adulthood, or is it more culturally derived and more temporary?  A somewhat related question is, what do we do with the fact that many cultures, especially non-western cultures, do not go through this stage and these 5 markers?

I’m looking forward to my time at Princeton.  I don’t have a definitive answer myself for the type of questions I suggest above, but I’m looking forward to wrestling with these and other questions.