Presenting “Emerging Adulthood”: What Makes It Developmentally Distinctive?

Jennifer L. Tanner and Jeffrey Jensen Arnett

in Debating Emerging Adulthood

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199757176
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199863389 | DOI:
Presenting “Emerging Adulthood”: What Makes It Developmentally Distinctive?

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This chapter summarizes the theoretical and empirical evidence in support of the view that emerging adulthood is a unique stage of development. First, this stage of development is distinct demographically in terms of delayed school-to-work transitions, and delayed entries into marriage and parenthood. Second, the concept of recentering determines the uniqueness of emerging adulthood from a developmental systems perspective. At this one and only stage of development, a dynamic power shift occurs between individual and society that discourages continued dependence and encourages accelerated independence; this transfer of agency defines a critical juncture in life span human development. Last, a broad review of the developmental literature reveals convergent support for the assertion that emerging adults are developmentally distinct from younger and older age groups, in personality; cognition; physical and mental health; emotional development; interpersonal relationships with parents, peers, and significant others; sex; and educational and occupational roles.

Keywords: emerging adulthood; developmental systems; recentering; identity; agency

Chapter.  6814 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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