Not 'Young' Adults, but 'Emerging' Adults

Authored by Bob Rice in Issue #33.1 of The Sower

What is a ‘young adult?’

This is the question that plagues many people in young adult ministry in the United States. Young adults are often described by their age range: 18 to 30 years old. But Christian Smith, author of Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, suggests the term young adult is a misnomer. He proposes we call this age group emerging adults. ‘Rather than viewing these years as simply the last hurrah of adolescence or an early stage of real adulthood, (this title) recognizes the very unique characteristics of this new and particular phase of life.’[i]

Previously, he and Melissa Lundquist Denton wrote a book called Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Published in 2005, Soul Searching became one of the most influential books in American Catholic Youth Ministry since the USCCB published Renewing the Vision in 1997.

Soul Searching studied the religiosity of American teenagers. Souls in Transition continues that study by looking at the lives of 18 to 24 year olds. ‘The features marking this stage are intense identity exploration, instability, a focus on self, feeling in limbo or in transition or in-between, and a sense of possibilities, opportunities, and unparalleled hope. These, of course, are also accompanied… by large doses of transience, confusion, anxiety, self-obsession, melodrama, conflict, disappointment, and sometimes emotional devastation.’

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This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

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