Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Promoting Mental Health: The Experiences of Youth in Residential Care

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Promoting Mental Health: The Experiences of Youth in Residential Care

Article excerpt

Experiences during the transition into adulthood can have an enormous impact on future life trajectories and well-being (Arnett, 2000; Crocetti et al., 2016). The presence of mental health issues can substantially hinder this transition (O'Connor, Sanson, Toumbourou, Norrish, & Olsson, 2017). Youth living in residential childcare centres experience a particularly high prevalence of mental-health-related difficulties (Deutsch et al., 2015). Consequently, Deutsch and colleagues (2015), together with the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, Alberta ([OCYAA], 2013) have reported that during their transition into adulthood, this population is increasingly vulnerable to and experiences poorer life outcomes compared to their peers. Guided by Arnett's (2000, 2004) theory of emerging adulthood, in this qualitative study we explored factors that youth living in residential childcare centres in Atlantic Canada perceive to be important influences regarding their mental health during a key period in their lives: the transition out of residential care and into adulthood.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: ARNETTS "EMERGING ADULTHOOD" PERSPECTIVE

The transition into adult life signifies a key developmental period for people in industrialized societies across the world, including Canada (Arnett, 2000, 2004). In Western societies, the transition into adulthood has undergone a major transformation over the past 50 years (Furstenberg, 2010; Osgood, Foster, Flanagan, & Ruth, 2005; Representative for Children and Youth, 2014; Settersten, Furstenberg, & Rumbaut, 2005). For much of the 20th century, this transition was relatively quick and straightforward: Young people typically left high school during their teenage years and then entered immediately into adult roles such as full-time employment and marriage (Furstenberg, 2010; Settersten et al., 2005). Although much of Canadian social policy continues to view the transition into adult life from this perspective and defines adulthood as beginning once youth reach 18 to 19 years of age, such rapid transitions into adulthood are no longer the norm in Canada, according to the Representative for Children and Youth (2014). Instead, young people now face an increasingly challenging and complex transition into adulthood that extends over a longer duration. Achieving independent adulthood, which was often accomplished by young people during their early 20s, is now often delayed close to a decade (Furstenberg, 2010; Settersten et al., 2005). Arnett (2000) and other researchers (Salvatore, 2017; Suárez-Orozco, 2015; Swanson, 2016) who have built on his work argue that this extended and complex transition period represents a distinct period of psychological development between adolescence and adulthood.

Arnett (2000) coined the phrase emerging adulthood to characterize this developmental period, which he conceptualizes as distinct from adolescence and adulthood. He stated that emerging adulthood, which is typically defined as ranging from the late teenage years into the early 20s, encompasses several significant transitions, such as completing postsecondary education, entering the workforce, and moving out of the parental household. This period also commonly involves young people entering more serious and committed personal relationships with romantic partners (Arnett, 2004; Young et al., 2011). According to Arnett (2000, 2004), during emerging adulthood, young people also move progressively toward psychological and practical independence and autonomy, needing to become increasingly self-reliant while discovering how to manage their own lives independently from their families. Additionally, Arnett characterized emerging adulthood as a significant period of self-examination during which youth explore who they are and how they wish to live their lives, as well as search out potential opportunities and investigate their own ideas, beliefs, and values. For these reasons, the transition into adult life is an important time of growth, maturity, and self-discovery (Crocetti et al. …

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