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I really appreciated psychologist Laurence Steinberg’s article last week, “The Case for Delayed Adulthood.” He acknowledges that the societal ways we talk about the path to adulthood often end up disparaging and blaming the young adults who are on longer timelines when it comes to traditional definitions of adulthood. He makes a case, however, for the many benefits that can stem from the challenges and new experiences that often mark those years of exploration and transition. The neuroplasticity of our brains, a capacity that we lose as we settle into later adulthood, allows the novel experiences of our adolescent and young adult years to foster openness, creativity, and growth. The late adolescent and early adult years, however we might define them biologically and culturally, are part of a developmental trajectory that looks very different today than it did in earlier decades (and I’m sure you who are reading this have plenty of examples to illustrate this).
The term “emerging adults” has taken hold as a catch-all reference to this developmental phenomenon. In my next few posts I want to take a closer look at emerging adulthood and how its perils and possibilities are portrayed in our American context especially. I’ll reflect a bit on my own journey of young adulthood and I’ll consider what I think are important implications for the church. I hope some of you will engage me in conversation about how you perceive emerging adulthood. What do you observe? What excites you or worries you about young adults today?