"Emerging adulthood" new life stage?

By JAMIE GRISWOLD
MyNorthwest.com

There's a new term being used to describe the age between adolescence and adulthood.

Dr. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, in the Department of Psychology at Clark University, has dubbed the era between your teens and adulthood "emerging adulthood."

"If you go back 50 years ago, by the time people were 18, 19, 20 years old they had really more or less finished growing up. They were either married, or about to be married, relatively few went to college so most were in full time work, and most of them were either parents or about to be parents in the next couple of years. Now, that's not true anymore, now, that's really unusual," Arnett says.

In an appearance on KIRO Radio, Arnett explained that people are using their 20s to pursue a college education, or explore, and that means that people don't hit the stage of adulthood, generally identified by adult responsibilities like marriage or career-type employment, until they hit their early 30s.

"Most people spend most of their 20s getting an education, and trying out different jobs. They may travel. They may join Peace for America, or the Peace Corp. and they don't really enter the stable roles of adult life in terms of marriage, parenthood and a stable job until sometime around age 30."

Listen to Dr. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett on KIRO Radio

Arnett says he doesn't see anything wrong with the new trend of people taking longer to progress into adulthood.

"What's the hurry? Once you get into adulthood and you take on these big adult responsibilities, you're basically there for most of the rest of your life [...]Why would it be better to do that at 20 than 30? Why not spend your 20s doing all sorts of interesting and fun unusual things that you can only do then and you'll never have the chance to do again."

Arnett has written extensively about the subject including a book titled "Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties."


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