We also talked about how the adolescent time period is a modern invention (from around the 1950s). Before that time, individuals moved more swiftly from childhood to adult responsibilities. With modern schooling and a delay of adult responsibilities, individuals now enjoy a time period in their lives when they have more time for leisure activities and socializing. Recently, psychologists have also suggested that modern society has created a new developmental period called "Emerging Adulthood". This time period lasts from about age 18 to age 25 and is characterized by college students who have more independence from their parents than they did in adolescence, but are not yet full adults. They often aren't financially independent and haven't taken on many adult responsibilities (such as jobs, marriage, or children).
According to our textbook, emerging adulthood is characterized by:
1. the exploration of possible identities before making enduring choices.Many psychologists argue that emerging adulthood is not a universal developmental stage because it requires parents who are able to financially support this level of freedom and exploration before the individual takes on adult responsibilities. Also the textbook states the following:
2. instability in work, romantic relationships, and living arrangements.
3. a focus on oneself and, in particular, on functioning as an independent person.
4. the subjective feeling of being between adolescence and adulthood: and
5. the subjective sense that life holds many possibilities. (Sandberg, 2011, p. 92-93)
As one recent analysis of patterns of marriage and residential arrangements indicates, the lifestyle associated with emerging adulthood -- delaying marriage and parenthood, living alone or cohabiting, changing jobs frequently and "finding" onself -- is more prevalent in some communities than in others...In particular, young adults in states that are generally more politically and socially conservative were far less likely to follow the emerging-adulthood pattern than those who lived in more liberal states. This suggests that the existence of emerging adulthood may have a lot to do with values and priorities. (Sandberg, 2011, p. 94)As I read these words, a multitude of LDS conference talks flashed through my mind. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Mormon youth are strongly encouraged to marry young (early in college or soon after missionary responsibilities) and are strongly encouraged to start having children soon after they marry. In my mind, there are two motivations for this advice. First of all, given the prime importance placed on marriage and family in the LDS church, the church leaders want LDS youth to fill their 20s with these responsibilities. Secondly, by taking on these responsibilities in their 20s, LDS youth are avoiding opportunities to sin as they won't have time to explore different lifestyle options. Fairly frequently, LDS leaders chastise youth in their 20s (especially young men) who they feel are selfishly avoiding adult responsibilities.
Overall, there seems to be a fear by LDS leaders that given a period of more independence and less responsibility, many individuals will turn away from their LDS upbringing. Through my interaction with people on the Bloggernacle, it appears that these fears are somewhat justified. More specifically, it is not uncommon for LDS youth to begin to seriously question the tenets of their faith or experience a feminist awakening during their college years. However, one critical question is whether marrying young or having children right away will absolutely protect against these ideological shifts. Perhaps it does to some extent, but there are plenty of people who experience great strains on their marriage relationships as they go through changes and periods of exploration in their 20s and 30s.
One critical question here is what life pattern is most likely to lead to positive adult development? While this can vary a lot from person to person, there are definitely some benefits to experiencing emerging adulthood. If an individual has time to explore both work and romantic relationships, they can gain a better sense of who they are and what they really want before they take on adult responsibilities. Thus, LDS youth who go through an emerging adulthood time period and continue to believe in the tenets of the LDS church, may become stronger members given that they have seen or experienced some of the other options. Thus, they may feel that they more fully own the choices that they have made.
What do you think? What are some of the positive and negative outcomes of experiencing emerging adulthood? Did you experience an emerging adulthood time period in your life and how did it impact you?