Emerging Adulthood: The Transition from Adolescence to Early Adulthood
April 15, 2018
For many young people, graduating from high school is considered to be a significant milestone. This transition often symbolizes transformation from child to adult and signifies the time for making adult choices. According to Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, adolescents (ages 14-18) are faced with the developmental stage of Identity vs. Role Confusion. During this stage, the adolescent is trying to establish a sense of who they are, what they believe, what they value, and what their goals are in life (McLeod, 2013). In today’s society, many high school students are expected to go to college, graduate within four years, and begin a career all before the age of 25. It is common to find that once in college, a person starts to question their choices, “Why did I choose this major” or “Can I really see myself doing this job for the rest of my life?” At times, this line of internal questioning can lead to a decrease in motivation, isolation, racing thoughts, irritability, or indecisiveness. Experiencing these thoughts and feelings over a long period of time can lead to depression and anxiety and if left untreated can lead to mental health problems later on. Compound these coming of age issues with a history of family conflict, trauma or substance abuse and you may have the perfect storm. Researcher Jeffrey Arnett (2000) discussed that growing up today takes a lot longer than it did in past years. He discussed an additional stage of development called Emerging Adulthood, which takes place between ages 18-25. This stage is distinctly focused on the further development of one’s identity, in which a person can develop a better understanding of their identity, their worldviews, or their values/belief system (Arnett, 2000). While everyone may not go through this phase, it offers an extended time for individuals to practice and refine life skills that might have been delayed during adolescent development. It balances out the pressures of having to have one’s life mapped out before graduating high school and normalizes the changes that come with adulthood.