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Unformatted text preview: CHILD DEVELOPMENT PERSPECTIVES Conceptualizing Emerging Adulthood: Inspecting the Emperors New Clothes? Leo B. Hendry and Marion Kloep University of Glamorgan ABSTRACT Jeffrey Arnetts concept of emerging adult- hood is critically examined by reviewing and evaluating elements of its theoretical framework and by referring to relevant empirical studies, which support the major argu- ments presented. Several limitations to Arnetts model are found and an alternative perspective is offered that might complement his stage theory and provide a stronger theoretical baseline for future research. KEYWORDS developmental theories; adolescence; transi- tions; emerging adulthood; lifespan development; stage theories; social class Academics worldwide have congratulated Arnett (2000, 2006) for focusing over the last decade or so on a previously under- researched phase of the life span. Societal and economic changes and shifts inspired him to ask what these forces meant to the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Arguably, this theory has been hailed by some as the most important theoretical contribution to developmental psychology in the past 10 years (Gibbons & Ashdown, 2006). Nevertheless, in this article, we want to play the part of the little boy in Hans Christian Andersens story who points out the Emperors lack of clothes, because in our view, his ideas on this period of transition contain several limitations, which should be addressed if future research is to advance on firmer theoretical grounds. To examine these points, we concentrate on the following issues: 1. The configuration of adolescence, early adulthood, and adulthood. 2. Retrospect and prospect: Do we really need the term? 3. Is emerging adulthood experienced positively or negatively by most young people? 4. Is emerging adulthood good for society? THE CONFIGURATION OF EMERGING ADULTHOOD Arnett (2004) is right in suggesting that the transition to adulthood has become increasingly prolonged as a result of economic changes, with many young people staying in educa- tion longer, marrying later, and having their first child later than in the past and that in present day society, it is difficult to determine when adolescence ends and adulthood begins. However, he is not the first to make this observation: The distinction between youth status and adult status is gradually blurring: Over the last fifteen years, the behavioural differences between youth and adults have drastically diminished. In a grow- ing number of life spheres (sexuality, political behaviour, etc.) young people behave like adults or claim the same rights as adults. (Buchmann, 1989, p. 85) What is new in Arnetts theory is the proposal of a new stage in human development, distinct from adolescence and adulthood, overlapping with both stages (Arnett, 2007; see Figure 1)....
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This note was uploaded on 12/02/2010 for the course PSYCH PSY BEH P2 taught by Professor Susanturkcharles during the Fall '10 term at UC Irvine.

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