Kids today. Sometimes we love them. Sometimes we hate them. Most of the time we feel we don’t understand them. If you are the parent of a college student, you may wonder at times whether this person is still an adolescent or whether he is an adult. Your opinion may change from day to day or even hour to hour. You are not alone. Your student is likely entering, or solidly settled into, a phase of life now labeled Emerging Adulthood. The more you understand about this newly identified stage of life, the more you may feel that you begin to understand your college-age and post-college student.
Emerging Adulthood, as a distinct developmental phase, is most widely known through the work of psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett. Arnett’s book, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties, was first published in 2004 and has received much attention. We recommend it to college parents. According to Dr. Arnett, ”kids” today aren’t the ”kids” that we were. Parents need to work to understand how different today’s students are.
According to Dr. Arnett, Emerging Adulthood begins at about the age of 18 and often continues until the age of 25 or 27. This is much later than many of us might think. So as your student begins college, she may also be entering this developmental phase. As she graduates from college (and perhaps boomerangs back home) she is in the midst of this stage. She may remain in this stage for several more years. It is not simply an extended adolescence, but a distinct time of less parental control and more independent exploration.
Consider the following five characteristics of this age and think about your student. You may be surprised at how accurate the description is.