Emerging adulthood is a term coined by psychologist Jeffrey Arnett to refer to a life stage from the late teens through the 20s during which the foundation is laid for assuming adult responsibilities. This entry first provides a brief rationale for why a new developmental stage was thought to be necessary and outlines Arnett’s conception of this stage. It concludes by documenting growth in research on emerging adulthood and describing some challenges to this construct.

Rationale for Emerging Adulthood as a Life Stage

The dominant life-course developmental theory proposed by Erik Erikson postulates that adolescence ends in the late teens and ushers in young adulthood, which lasts until approximately age 40. As recently as 1960, this framework was appropriate, given that marriage in the United States occurred ...

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