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Clark Professor Discusses Idea of “Emerging Adulthood”

News Co-Editor

Published: Friday, February 14, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 17, 2014 15:02


On Tuesday, February 11, Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett from Clark University gave a discussion in Rehm Library called “Emerging Adulthood: The New Life Stage from Age 18 to 25.” Arnett’s argument centered around his belief that “emerging adulthood is a separate and distinct stage from adolescence versus young adulthood,” highlighting his most recent research on emerging adulthood and specifically focusing on his “surveys and interview data with emerging adults (particularly college age students) regarding the influence of social class on this developmental stage between adolescence and adulthood.”

   Professor Arnett’s main point stated that there were five distinctive features that comprise the “emerging adulthood stage: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between, and possibilities/optimism.” “Identity exploration” is a person’s belief that their time is about finding out who they are, while “instability” is the recognition that this stage of life is filled with changes. “Self-focus” refers to an emerging adult focusing on him- or herself and what is best in the context of current life, and “feeling in-between” centers around the idea that emerging adults are undecided about whether they truly feel like an adult or not. Finally, “possibilities” and/or “optimism” is a person’s confidence that he or she will eventually get what they want out of life. 

   Professor Amy Wolfson, Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean of the Faculty, and Professor Patricia Bizzell, Professor of English, were both instrumental in planning the presentation, given that their senior seminar “Liberal Arts, Leadership, and Social Change” is currently working on “questions about emerging adulthood and college students of today,” a topic very relevant to Professor Arnett’s talk. In addition, the class is reading excerpts from Professor Arnett’s 2006 book Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties

   Professor Wolfson said, “In light of reading his book and Professor Arnett being nearby at Clark University, it made sense to invite him to both meet with our class and to speak to the larger campus. He is the founder of the field in psychology that now studies this stage of emerging adulthood, and thus, the true expert on this topic.” 

   This presentation is perfectly suited for an audience on a college campus, because Arnett’s work on emerging adults is extremely relevant not only to students, but also to the faculty and student affairs staff that work with the “emerging adult” age group. As students transition from college to their personal and professional adult lives,   Professor Arnett’s words may help them to be more conscious of the process of “emerging adulthood.”

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