Clark University Poll of parents of emerging adults

The Clark University Poll of Parents of Emerging Adults

This is the second Clark Poll based on the research of Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Ph.D., psychology professor at Clark University, who coined the term "emerging adulthood" to describe the life stage between the late teens and mid/late twenties. In the first poll, young adults spoke out about the issues shaping their lives, and the world in which they live, to offer an illuminating, honest look at the hopes, fears and expectations of this key population.

The new poll gives the parents of emerging adults the chance to have their say. The poll reveals how parents feel about their grown-up children with regard to a wide range of issues, including financial support, what makes a person an adult, moving out of the parents' home, moving back in again, and what the future holds for both parents and child.

Poll findings

Parents and their emerging adults rank 'being responsible for yourself' before money and marriage as key to becoming an adult

Parents welcome emerging adults back to the nest

About Jeffrey Jensen Arnett

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett is a research professor in the department of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. Dr. Arnett's primary scholarly interest is in "emerging adulthood," the period from the late teens to the mid-twenties (mainly ages 18-25). For more than a decade he has conducted research on emerging adults concerning a wide variety of topics and involving several different ethnic groups in the United States. He also studied emerging adults in Denmark as a Fulbright Scholar in 2005. Other areas of his research are media uses in adolescence, especially music and advertising, and risk behavior in adolescence and emerging adulthood, especially cigarette smoking. In the course of his work on cigarette smoking, he has served as an expert witness against the tobacco companies in numerous court cases, including the multi-state case that led to the largest civil settlement in legal history in 1998.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett's new book When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up? Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult (Workman; May 2013) is the first and only parenting guide for this life stage. The book demonstrates why emerging adulthood—which, to parents, may look like flailing—actually helps children become happier, healthier grown-ups.

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    • Dr. Arnett received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, and did three years of postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago. From 1992-1998 he was Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Missouri. He has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University and the University of Maryland.

      Dr. Arnett is the father of twins Miles and Paris, born in 1999. His wife, Lene Jensen, is also a developmental psychologist at Clark University, specializing in moral development and in the development of cultural identity among immigrants. She herself was born in Denmark and immigrated to the United States in 1986, and the family visits Denmark every summer.

      In the news

      Dr. Arnett's research on Emerging Adulthood has been featured in dozens of national and international media outlets, including The New York Times Magazine, Today Show, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Toronto Star, Daily Mail (UK), Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.

      Other Publications

      Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties
      By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (2006, Oxford University Press)

      In Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties, Dr. Arnett presents a broad and compelling portrait of the lives of today's "emerging adults." He argues that a new stage of life has been created in recent decades, lasting from about age 18 through the mid-twenties for most people, that is distinct from either the adolescence that precedes it or the young adulthood that follows it. Drawing on over 300 interviews, Dr. Arnett describes diverse aspects of emerging adults' lives, including relationships with parents, love and sex, marriage hopes and fears, college experiences, the search for meaningful work, religious beliefs (or lack of them), and perceptions of what it means to be an adult. In contrast to previous portrayals of this age group, Dr. Arnett describes emerging adults as wary but hopeful, strikingly optimistic even if their lives in the present are often unsettled. Their voices come through loud and clear in this insightful and provocative book.

      Emerging Adults in America: Coming of Age in the 21st Century
      Edited by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett and Jennifer Lynn Tanner (2005, American Psychological Association Press)

      This book resulted from the First Conference on Emerging Adulthood held at Harvard University in November, 2003. Twelve scholars contributed chapters on a wide range of topics, from cognitive development to mental health to sexuality to media use, and more. All were asked to summarize what is known and to present theoretical ideas about what a paradigm of emerging adulthood might look like with respect to their area. The result is a rich panorama of perspectives on emerging adulthood, covering a wide range of topics.


      Debating Emerging Adulthood: Stage or Process?
      By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Marion Kloep, Leo B. Hendry, and Jennifer L. Tanner (2011, Oxford University Press)

      Drs. Arnett and Tanner argue that as young people around the world share demographic similarities, such as longer education and later marriage, the years between the ages 18 and 25 are best understood as entailing a new life stage. Drs. Hendry and Kloep counter that stage theories—including the theory of emerging adulthood—have never been able to explain individual transitions across the life course and ought to be abolished altogether.


      Readings on Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood
      By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (Prentice Hall, 2002)

      Dr. Arnett has compiled a book of readings intended to serve as a companion to the textbook on adolescence. Like the textbook, the book of readings emphasizes culture as the context for development. Furthermore, as in the textbook, the book of readings covers not only adolescence but also emerging adulthood.



      Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: A Cultural Approach (4th edition)
      By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (2009, Prentice Hall)

      Dr. Arnett presents his theory of emerging adulthood, conceptualizing it as the age of identity explorations, instability, being self-focused, feeling in-between, and the age of possibilities. He describes this theory in some detail in the first chapter, and uses it as the framework for discussing emerging adulthood in the chapters that follow.


      Human Development: A Cultural Approach
      By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (2011, Pearson Education)

      Through research and examples from around the world, Dr. Arnett teaches students to think culturally about their own development and see how it applies to their own lives and future careers. Whether they travel the globe or remain in their home towns, in a culturally diverse and globalized world students will benefit from being able to think culturally about human development.


In the Media

FOXNews Radio
When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?

Prof. Arnett talks about emerging adults and their parents on FOXNews Live's "Career Accelerator."

Wall Street Journal
What's the Netflix Password Again, Mom?

New England Cable Network
Understanding Emerging Adulthood in Your Grown-Up Child
Will Today's Teens Out-Earn Their Parents or Just Live in the Basement Eating Wheaties

Worcester Telegram
Adulthood Delayed: Clark Professor Says the Kids Are Alright

USA Today
Parents say they feel positive about young-adult kids