Emerging Adulthood

By Elizabeth Goodman

Going away to college whether it is close to home, across the country, or across the world presents an exciting and challenging time in any student’s life. For some, including myself, it is their first time living away from home where a newfound sense of independence and responsibility are formed. It’s an exciting, stimulating and fun time, but also one that can be characterized by anxiety, insecurity, and depression, making for a complex stage of life. This marks the beginning of a unique stage that was recently identified in 2000 by psychologist Jeffrey Arnett called, “Emerging Adulthood,” the period between adolescence and young adulthood, respectively (Arnett 2000). Its concepts and features are fascinating and applicable to almost all USC students, as this new stage concerns 18-25 year olds. As emerging adults, it is important to learn about this period in your life to fully understand the steps to becoming an adult in American society.

Emerging adulthood is characterized by five features: self-focus, instability, possibilities/optimism, identity exploration, and feeling in-between (Arnett 2014). Self-focus means this is a time where it is all about you and you have fewer ties and obligations to others. Instability in all facets of life is feeling like you are supposed to have a plan, but also knowing it will be revised many times. Optimism is feeling like anything is still possible at this time. Identity exploration is about asking yourself questions such as “Who am I? What do I want to be? What kind of person am I looking for romantically?” (Arnett 2014). Feeling in-between means not feeling like an adolescent, but also not feeling like an adult just yet (Arnett 2014).

As an aspiring Occupational Therapist, I am intrigued by development. As an emerging adult, I am especially interested in learning about this stage of life. Dr. Kim Morris-Eggleston is teaching her first semester of a two-unit course she created called, “OT 280- Essential Occupations of Emerging Adulthood” under the USC Chan Division of Occupational Therapy. The course is designed to, “Analyze the “emerging adulthood” stage of development in American society through an occupational science lens that includes sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, and business” (Morris 2017). The course also focuses on themes in occupational therapy such as how to improve the health and wellness of emerging adults.

A unique component of the class are the “Experiential Learning” activities that allow students to choose from a variety of niche life skills sessions exclusively for her class taught by various departments within USC. Some of the activities Morris has coordinated include a session from Town and Gown on entertaining a large party, learning how to change a tire by USC Transportation and Maintenance, and a cooking class taught by USC Hospitality. The course also offers guest speakers at almost every class, including a self-defense lesson taught by USC professor Grandmaster Carl Collins, and a lecture on financial planning from the USC Credit Union.

Emerging adulthood is an exciting, unique stage in life that is valuable for learning life skills to overcome future challenges. I am less intimidated by the thought of becoming an adult and feel more prepared to succeed as an adult in 21st century America after taking Morris’ class and studying key themes in emerging adulthood.

Featured image by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Elizabeth is an undergraduate junior who is majoring in Health and Human Sciences with minors in Occupational Science and Sports Media Studies. She was born and raised in Los Angeles and knows all about the city whether it is the best places to eat, hikes with great views, or fun museums. Elizabeth is involved in multiple organizations on campus including the USC Women’s Club Soccer Team, USC Troy Camp (a mentorship program for South LA youth), and Greek Life. She is a huge USC football fan and loves talking about, watching, and playing sports. She is very passionate about working with others and aspires to be an Occupational Therapist to help people achieve their goals.