1. Thanks to Chris Eberle, Skip Smith, Sean Kelsey, Keith Meador, and Mark Regnerus for reading and providing feedback on sections of the earlier manuscript of this book.
2. That good has been documented by other observers, particularly by the leading scholar of emerging adulthood, Jeffrey Arnett; see Jeffrey Arnett, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Jeffrey Arnett and Jennifer Tanner, eds., Emerging Adults in America: Coming of Age in the 21st Century (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2006); Jeffrey Arnett, Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: A Cultural Approach (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009). A recent portrayal of emerging adult life that strikes us as altogether too rosy and optimistic is Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray, Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It’s Good for Everyone (New York: Bantam Books, 2010).
3. We did not invent the idea of the sociological imagination. The term was originally coined by the Columbia University sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916–62) and developed in his book The Sociological Imagination, published in 1959 but still fresh and important today. Mills summarized the sociological imagination as “the intersection of biography and history,” observing that,
neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be under-
stood without understanding both. Yet people do not usually define the
troubles they endure in terms of historical change and institutional con-
tradiction…. What they need … is … the sociological imagination….
The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography
and the relations between the two within a society. That is its task and its
By this Mills meant that people need to develop the ability to see that our individual biographies are profoundly shaped by our social, cultural, and institutional environments—that our “personal” and “private” experiences are embedded within and profoundly shaped by our place in history and society. That is the