Recently the lives of people from age 18 to 29 have changed so dramatically that a new stage of life has developed, emerging adulthood, that is distinct from both the adolescence that precedes it and the young adulthood that comes in its wake. Rather than marrying and becoming parents in their early twenties, most people in industrialized societies now postpone these transitions until at least their late twenties, and instead spend the time in self-focused exploration as they try out different possibilities in their careers and relationships.
In Emerging Adulthood, Jeffrey Jensen Arnett identifies and labels, for the first time, this period exploration, instability, possibility, self-focus, and a sustained sense of being in limbo. An increasing number of emerging adults emphasize having meaningful and satisfying work to a degree not seen in prior generations. Marrying later and exploring more casual sexual relationships have created different hopes and fears concerning long-term commitments and the differences between love and sex. Emerging adults also face the challenge of defending their non-traditional lifestyles to parents and others outside their generation who have made much more traditional choices. In contrast to previous portrayals of emerging adults, Arnett's research shows that they are particularly skilled at maintaining contradictory emotionsthey are confident while still being wary, and optimistic in the face of large degrees of uncertainty.
As the demographics of American youth, the American workplace, and adulthood continue to evolve, Emerging Adulthood is indispensable reading for anyone wanting to understand the face of modern America.
… Arnett deserves credit for helping to chart a new terrain that is only likely to grow in the 21st century. His sense of optimism and advocacy for young adults are infectious. This work is likely to help build a field of scholarship that is urgently needed to renovate policies, programs and general understanding of the lengthy and arduous process of becoming an adult in American society.