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Published on Dec 21, 2014
Fifty years ago, most young people in developed countries married and became parents in around age 20, and relatively few continued their education beyond secondary school. Today, “30 is the new 20,” as a popular American saying goes, and the transitions to a stable adult life take place closer to age 30 for most young people. Consequently, a new life stage has opened up in between adolescence and young adulthood. Dr. Arnett has proposed the term “emerging adulthood” for this new life stage, and described it as a time of identity explorations, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between, and possibilities. It is a time when rates of a variety of mental health problems increase, including major depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. There are many reasons for this pattern, but Dr. Arnett will focus on identity issues and the lack of stable social relationships. However, emerging adulthood is also a time of resilience and “second chances”—more so than adolescence or any other life stage—because during emerging adulthood it is possible to leave one’s family of origin and reshape one’s life before it is set into the entrenched patterns of adulthood.