Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Qualitative Exploration of Emerging Adults' and Parents' Perspectives on Communicating Adulthood Status

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Qualitative Exploration of Emerging Adults' and Parents' Perspectives on Communicating Adulthood Status

Article excerpt


The developmental stage of Emerging Adulthood has been steadily gaining research attention as interest in early adulthood has shown that this stage of development is unique to stages such as childhood (Arnett, 2004). Emerging Adulthood is relatively new area of development in comparison to the study of childhood and even adolescence as a separate life stage. Therefore, it is important during this time to collect more information on what makes Emerging Adulthood a distinct stage of development, and also how to inform parents how to communicate with their children during this stage of development and change. This study will explore the ways in which parents and children communicate about this status of Emerging Adulthood and information from this study will assist both parents and young adults in navigating this stage of development.

Literature Review

Emerging adulthood is a relatively new developmental concept that highlights the time period after adolescence, but prior to the independent adult stage of life. Developed by Arnett (2000), this time period is to be considered a unique stage of life, characterized by making independent decisions, taking responsibility and achieving financial independence. This time period has been outlined to occur from the late teens to early 20's, and is created to help people to understand the transitions and difficulties that are unique to this time period in our current society (Arnett, 2007). Since this is a relatively new area of research and relatively new theory of child development, there are few studies to explore what this time period means to individuals and to their parents

Parent-child relationships during Emerging Adulthood

Even though there has been new attention on Emerging Adulthood as a distinct stage of development, there still is fairly limited literature available on the parent-child relationship during this phase of the lifespan. The existing cross-sectional research (i.e., Arnett, 2001) indicates that there does appear to be some stability in the parent-child relationship from adolescence through young adulthood. However, life transitions such as the young adult taking on full-time employment, getting married, and even cohabitating with a romantic partner were related to closeness, more support, and less conflict in the parent-young adult relationship. Interestingly, the young adults becoming parents themselves seemed to put a strain on their relationship with their own parent such that there were lower levels of emotional closeness, higher levels of conflict, and more control issues as reported by the parents (Aquilino, 1997). Similarly, studies have shown that parent-child relationships that have high levels of closeness can prevent teen pregnancy (Miller, Benson, & Gailbraith, 2001).

Stability in the parent-child relationship was also evident in another longitudinal study by Tubman and Lerner (1994) in which it was found that the affective, or emotional, relationship between child and parent remained relatively stable through late adolescence (16-17 years old) and young adulthood (through the 20's).

According to Kenny and Sirin (2006), who surveyed 81 pairs of Emerging Adults and their mothers, most Emerging Adults have a positive perception of their attachment to their parents. Turner, Sarason, and Sarason (2001) found that college students who felt accepted by their parents reported more positive psychological adjustment including lower levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness as well as higher levels of competence and well-being. Similarly, Leondari and Kiosseoglou (2000) found that securely attached college students in Greece reported greater levels of self-esteem and lower levels of anxiety and loneliness.

Besides parental attachment and acceptance, level of autonomy is an important aspect of the parent-child relationship during Emerging Adulthood. Luyckx, Soenens, Goossens, and Vansteenkiste (2007) surveyed 449 college students from Belgium and found that parents' support of autonomy versus psychological control lead to higher rates of students' adjustment to college. …

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