Academic journal article Education

Exploring Career Development in Emerging Adult Collegians

Academic journal article Education

Exploring Career Development in Emerging Adult Collegians

Article excerpt


Characteristics of Emerging Adults

Since 1950s, characteristics of emerging adults have defined a collective of individuals primarily because of an extended period of development for youths in industrialized nations. Because the traditional period denoting adolescence to adulthood takes longer, a new phenomenon has emerged. A new paradigm was needed because neither the terms adolescence nor adulthood were a great fit to brand 18-24 year olds. As this age group transitioned into roles associated with adulthood, the term youth was found to be antiquated. Through much discourse, time, and a series of quantitative methods, the concept of emerging adulthood was delineated. Jeffrey Arnett (2000) defined the characteristics of a new social and developmental group that includes late teens through age 20 with a focus of age 18 to 29. Arnett reported that by 2007, the emerging adulthood phase and its characteristics would become pandemic.

The characteristics for the new phase would become more clear, as Arnett explained the "who and when" of the emerging adults, and the data quantified the "why and what". Thus, by December, 2007 the beginning of the recession, various environmental factors shaped by the economic downturn provided knowledge that rapidly added to the definition of this group.

Arnett reported that one of the main characteristics of emerging adulthood is that it is a period marked with lots of transitions and life decisions. While this is a very broad characteristic, dissecting transition and life decisions for emerging adulthood provides insight about the multiplicity of other characteristics defining this phase. To make sense of the many characteristics of emerging adulthood, this paper categorizes them into three groups: roles, responsibilities, and environmental influences as shown in Table 1.

The table summarizes the characteristics or emerging adults and suggests that there is a level of influence among and between each category. For example, environment influences appear to help set the tone for the level of participation among emerging adults' options regarding responsibilities and roles. Further, because emerging adults' overall participation is delayed, as defined in historically defined markers, into adulthood, the question arises whether this affect contributes to their ability and desire to transition out of previous roles?

Although there appears to be an intriguing cause and effect relationship between roles, responsibilities, and environmental influences that have shaped global characteristics of this phase, Arnett (2000) also defined over-arching characteristics, which matter most from emerging adults' points of view. Emerging adults report that accepting responsibility for one's self, making independent decisions, becoming financially independent, and becoming a self-sufficient person are important milestones of their existence (cite).

Early scholars of student development such as Erikson and Chickering (Chickering, 1969) (Erikson, 1985) had already isolated the 18-25 year-old cohort, noting the period when a collective enrolled into institutions of higher learning. The complexities of identity development at that time (1920-1950) were shaped by different environmental factors. Exploration has always been a distinctive feature of different development stages; however the outcomes within a set time frame are what truly determine how emerging adults view themselves. Often, because of what is termed the new normal and acceptance of today's economic climate, emerging adulthood is a period of self-focus, possibilities, feeling in-between, and instability. For the collective of emerging adults enrolled in post-secondary education, the emerging adulthood identity, characteristics, outcomes, and transition into adulthood mandates that the university student services program respond with a newer paradigm for its practice.

Student Development

At one time, the concept of student development was influenced by change in the environment. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.