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  • August 31, 2020 5:25 PM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

    Approximately five months ago, I finished my last lecture of the day and walked out of a classroom for what I feared might be the last time for the foreseeable future. Indeed, I have not been in a physical classroom with my students since that day and that will not change any time soon.  At this time, I am preparing for a new semester during which I will teach classes via recorded lectures and Zoom technology.  As one who loves teaching, I am not filled with the building excitement to return to the classroom that is normally present as August starts to wind down. There is nothing normal about life right now. There is still uncertainty and instability in so many areas of our lives. Thus, with so many of our members returning to school (as students, faculty, counselors, and administrators) my thoughts are with each of you at this time. Despite the return to school being under very different circumstances, I hope you will experience joy and excitement in being back in your respective halls and e-halls of learning.

    As a society, we have tried not to let the challenges of the past few months keep us from moving forward.  In fact, I am grateful for the way we have responded to these challenges in ways that have made us better as an organization and, hopefully, helped us find new and better ways to use our collective knowledge to help others.  In the past four months we have launched ProjectCARE (Collaboration for Action and Resources for Emerging Adults), and formed a new topic network on social justice, equity, and inclusion. I appreciate all those who have responded to our calls to provide leadership, time, resources, and expertise in these efforts.  In the past months, the journal (Emerging Adulthood) experienced a transition of leadership and received an impact factor. I am so grateful to Moin Syed and his entire editorial team for their wonderful efforts at growing the journal, and to Christine Ohannessian and her team for accepting the role of carrying on the work  of the journal. In the last few months, there have been numerous other efforts made to keep the work of our organization moving forward during these times.  Behind the scenes, work continues on the 2021 conference by its organizing committee, and the membership committee has been hard at work to grow our numbers and improve services to members. Several of our topic networks, including the emerging scholar network, have been active and contributing in a variety of ways (including coordinated efforts to contribute to ProjectCARE).  

    As I see the work of our society moving forward, I am taught a great lesson. I have watched as people not only contribute despite the challenges facing us at this time but in response to these challenges. We are a better organization now because of your response to hard times.  Thank you. And thank you for showing me that while I may not be returning to one of my favorite places (classroom) any time soon, I can choose to respond to that reality in ways that will make me and my teaching better in the long run so I can better serve my students.
    Again, I express gratitude to all who contribute to our organization and wish the entire membership the very best at this time. Above all, be healthy, safe, and well.

    Sincerely,

    Larry Nelson
    SSEA President

  • May 05, 2020 6:33 PM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

    Dear SSEA members and friends,

    A few days ago, I received word that the price of an airline ticket I had purchased had been refunded due to the COVID crisis. The ticket was to Milan for our society’s conference on close relationships in emerging adulthood. The refund reminded me just how much life has changed for all of us in the past several months. Change, loss, isolation, and uncertainty have become common occurrences for many, if not all of us.  As the leadership of SSEA, we express our thoughts and best wishes to all of you.

    I have thought a lot about how this crisis has impacted the lives of emerging adults. It certainly isn’t a competition between various demographic groups regarding who has suffered the most but without a doubt the lives of many emerging adults have been affected.  Graduations, weddings, and summer internships have been cancelled or postponed. The job market for graduates is tenuous and many emerging adults have lost their jobs including a disproportionate number of women. Changes and challenges associated with living situations, relationships, finances, summer travel plans, active lifestyles, health, and education plans all weigh on the minds of many young people. Many young people may not see themselves at high-risk for the disease which leads to life-as-normal behaviors that may present concerns for their own health and that of those around them.  Many others are very concerned about the disease and those concerns are taking emotional tolls on them. There are emerging adults who may be particularly vulnerable to the affects of COVID-19 because of their marginalized status and the stigma, bias, and injustice that they may be experiencing as individuals or as part of broader systemic injustice. I worry about them.

    In sum, our young people and their families and communities are experiencing a wide range of issues at this time and the effects of the current situation will almost certainly have a lasting impact. As an organization, I believe we should be doing something to help.  As the leading scholarly organization for the study of emerging adulthood, we should be an organization that people can look to for both information and resources, and an organization that can be at the forefront of empirically understanding the impact of the crisis on emerging adults. To that end, we would like to start gathering helpful information from our membership that might be disseminated via our social media channels and website.  More details will be coming in the next few days but we would ask you to begin thinking about how you and your work might help emerging adults, their families, and communities at this time.

    Finally, a word of hope and support to all of you at this time. I know that the emerging adults in our membership are not the only ones being affected.  Many of us in higher education needed to shift to remote teaching. Clinicians needed to alter the ways in which they provided services.  Research studies are being compromised in many ways.  With schools and daycare services closing, work-family balance may be more of a challenge than ever before.  In sum, these times are not easy. However, they do not need to be void of hope, joy, and peace. At the end of March, my family was supposed to hold a party to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday.  Instead of an evening of food and celebration together as a family, we had to improvise. Over the phone, I talked my mother through the process of becoming familiar with Zoom (that in itself provided me with numerous laughs and memories as she has only had a smart phone for just over a year and only been texting for a few months so figuring out Zoom was an epic task). Then, on her birthday, we gathered as a family on Zoom and had an evening with my mom during which we asked her numerous questions about her life.  I learned things about my mother that I hadn’t known before. Grandchildren were mesmerized by the stories of life when mom was a child.   Because we recorded the Zoom meeting, we now have a permanent record of those stories. Although an evening of food and laughter would have been fun (and we will still have that in the future with her), we have something much more meaningful; we have a lasting record of my sweet mother sharing some of the milestones of her life that can now be shared with her posterity for generations to come.  As I think about that, I realize it is just one of many sweet silver linings, or, a phrase I like, “tender mercies”, that this situation has provided me and my family.  It is my hope that we can each take a moment to find and recognize precious moments of peace, calm, hope, and joy in the midst of everything else, and, if needed, that we will each be intentional about creating those types of moments. I hope that the result will be numerous tender mercies, silver linings, and gold nuggets of peace and joy for you.

    Sincerely,

    Larry Nelson

    SSEA President 

  • January 29, 2020 7:48 PM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

    Dear SSEA members and friends,

    During the question-and-answer session that followed my presidential address at our conference in Toronto last October, I asked those in attendance how many were first-time attendees.  I was surprised (but elated) at the show of hands.  Since that time, I have wondered numerous times what we can do to make sure these first-time attendees become members (if not already) and stay with us.  I also had the opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session with emerging scholars where I felt not only their energy and hopes, but also some of their concerns and fears.  I remembered being in their shoes so, like my thoughts about the first-time attendees, I wondered how we can support them and make them long-term members of our organization. As I’ve pondered these questions, I have thought about why I am part of our organization and why my experience at our meetings in Toronto was so meaningful to me. At the conference, I heard new ideas and research from people I did not previously known but from whom I learned a great deal. I had dinners with graduate students and watched with admiration as they took strides in their professional development as they presented their work. I took part in meetings with the organization’s leadership and saw how deeply they care about the organization and its members. I forged new research collaborations and friendships. I was able to catch up with people who have become wonderful friends since I first met each of them because of my membership in SSEA. In reflecting on all of these experiences, I realized that I wasn’t just a member of an organization but rather part of a community. I am a member of several professional organizations, but it was reaffirmed to me why this is my professional home. So I think back to all of those first-time attendees, graduate students, and emerging scholars and wonder, again, how we can make SSEA their professional home and help all members experience a sense of community.  How can we invite others to likewise join our community?

    First, I think we can try to meet people’s professional needs. There are many reasons why individuals may join a professional organization.  The reasons may include wanting discounted registration rates for a conference, hoping to find scholars who study similar topics, acquiring access to journals, being part of an organization that reflects one’s professional identity, becoming part of a community, finding opportunities to serve, and many others. There are many organizations competing to be the ones to fulfill those professional needs for potential members. Towards that end, we are trying our best to enhance what we can offer our members and those who may be looking for a professional home. In an attempt to connect members with others who study what they do, we continue to expand the number of topic networks we offers and we hold regular thematic conferences (including this year’s meeting on “close relationships in emerging adulthood” to be held in Milan, Italy, May 27-29th).   Furthermore, we will continue to hold these thematic conferences outside of the United States in hopes of meeting the academic needs of members from around the world who may not be able to travel to our conferences in the United States and Canada. Additionally, to help the academic needs of as many emerging and international scholars as possible, we will continue to devote funds to travel grants. We are also developing a small-grant initiative to help fund some of their research. Also, in hopes of being able to better meet the needs of members and to visually display what we might offer those searching for a professional home, we are initiating plans to redesign our website.  Finally, the wonderful efforts over the years of editors, associate editors, editorial board members, and reviewers have made it possible for us to offer a journal that will soon have an impact factor.  These are just some of the things we are doing in an attempt to meet the plethora of needs that professionals interested in emerging adulthood may be searching for in an organization.
     
    While grants, conferences, journals, and websites may help meet some specific needs, they are not the things that will build community. For that, we need to draw upon the biggest strength that we have as an organization -- our members. I would like to ask each of you for your help. Specifically, I challenge each of our members to invite a friend, fellow student, or colleague to come and see what our organization has to offer.  If you have had a professional need met by SSEA, would you please tell somebody about it? Would you please invite them to come and see what we have to offer them?  If they like what they see, please extend the invitation to come and join. Once a member, can I ask each of us to come and serve?  Get involved.  To form a community, we need you! There are opportunities to participate in topic networks, serve on organizing committees, review for the journal or conference proposals, help on committees, and serve in various leadership positions.  A community is created by its members so if you have already come to see, and then came and joined, will you now please come and serve? As we continually increase the ways that the organization can meet various professional needs, it is my hope  that we might increase the number of people who will come and see, come and join, come and serve, and then come and stay. As this happens, I hope that we can provide more people who are interested in emerging adulthood a professional identity, community, and home. 

     
    With appreciation,

    Larry Nelson
    President of SSEA



  • January 30, 2018 8:00 AM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

    Happy New Year to the SSEA community! We are excited about what the upcoming year has in store for our organization and invite you to be an active participant in some great ways to deepen your connection with the study of emerging adulthood. The first SSEA Thematic Conference will be taking place from May 17-19, 2018, in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. It is titled “Self and Identity in Emerging Adulthood” and we are very excited to gather together international scholars on this topic (broadly defined) for this exciting event. Submissions will be accepted through February 8, 2018. Please see the conference website (http://ssea.org/conference/Identity) for more information.

     

    Another great way to stay involved with the SSEA is through our Topic Networks. We currently have over 20 different groups established with the goals of connecting members who share interests so that they can share resources and develop collaborations. If you would like to join any of the Topic Networks listed on our website, please contact the SSEA Coordinator, coordinator@ssea.org or manage your member profile here. [http://www.ssea.org/membership/manage_member_profile] You may join as many Topic Networks as you like. We also welcome your ideas for more Topic Networks as well as nominations for Topic Network chairs or co-chairs. You need to be a current SSEA member to be a part of the Topic Networks.

     

    As a way to provide extra support for the great work our members are doing on emerging adulthood, we are working on establishing a small grants program and hope to distribute more information about this opportunity in the next few months. We also hope to encourage conversation and consideration of the ways that we can “make our research matter” through public engagement. Keep an eye out for calls to share the ways that your research is making an impact.

     

    We are also thrilled to take this opportunity to look back to our most recent conference. SSEA held its 8th biennial meeting this past November in Washington DC, USA. Brian Willoughby chaired the conference with Carolyn Barry as co-chair and they had support from committee members Byron Adams, Goda Kaniušonytė, and Spencer Olmstead. SSEA is highly committed to maintaining an international membership, so we were delighted to have representation from over 30 countries, with 20% of attendees from outside of North America. We are also pleased to have been able to offer travel grants to 29 international attendees. Furthermore, SSEA is highly committed to involvement from emerging scholars, which we hope is evidenced by our high rate of student attendees (37%) and new professional attendees (14%). To the organizers and all who attended and contributed, thank you for helping make the conference such a success.”

     

    The invited program included scholars with various areas of expertise in emerging adulthood. Brian Barber provided the Keynote Address titled, “Making it to Adulthood: When Youth Emerge under Continuous Political Constraint,” covering work he has been conducting with Palestinian youth for over 20 years.  Master lectures were offered by Elisabetta Crocetti (“Identity formation in emerging adulthood: A dynamic process”), Ofra Mayseless (“The caring motivation and its development during emerging adulthood – a neglected, fundamental facet of our human nature”), Larry Nelson (“Trajectories of flourishing and floundering: The good, the bad, and the lonely”), and Scott Stanley (“Sliding vs. deciding: Commitment, ambiguity, and relationship formation”).

     

    We were excited to offer six pre-conference events at this conference, organized by some of our most active Topic Networks, including Media, Prevention and Intervention, Religion and Spirituality, Identity, Mental Health, and Sexuality and Romantic Relationships. These always prove to be energizing sessions with excellent networking opportunities, so we highly suggest that you consider attending at pre-conference workshop in 2019.

     

    We had over 150 poster presentations on topics such as: parents and family, work and career, friendships, moral development, and substance use and abuse. Our program was also full of highly quality invited discussion sessions, symposia, and individual paper sessions covering a broad array of topics related to emerging adulthood.  The Friday night Dinner and Show included an enthralling story telling event and great chance to connect with other SSEA members. If you are still hoping to connect with a presenter or other conference attendee, there is a contact list posted on the SSEA website here. [http://www.ssea.org/conference/2017/program.html]

     

    We would be delighted to see everyone again at our 2019 conference. We hope to announce the location and dates soon. Stay tuned!

     

    All our best,


    Elizabeth Morgan, President

    Larry J. Nelson, President-elect

     

  • December 06, 2016 5:33 PM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

     

    Growth of SSEA

    We are less than one year away from the 8th conference on Emerging Adulthood, to be held November 2-4, 2017 in Washington DC. We anticipate that we will have over 500 conference attendees, with excellent representation from countries across the globe. Our society membership continues to grow and diversify, creating fantastic opportunities for collaboration across disciplines and continents through our Topic Networks and other society activities. Given that SSEA is itself in an emergent period of development, we wanted to take this opportunity to take a brief look back at the history of the organization and excitedly anticipate our future directions.

    SSEA originated as a special interest group within the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA). The first Conference on Emerging Adulthood on took place in November 2003 at Harvard University. The second conference took place in Miami in 2005 in conjunction with the International Society for Research on Identity (formerly known as SRIF).  In 2007, SSEA was established as a stand-alone society at the meeting in Tucson, Arizona. Starting with the 2007 meeting, and continuing through 2009 (Atlanta), 2011 (Providence, RI), 2013 (Chicago), and 2015 (Miami), attendance has increased at each successive conference. We are expecting the attendance at the 2017 Washington DC conference to be even higher than Miami. We strongly value international attendance at our conferences, which we facilitate through consistently providing travel awards for scholars from outside North America. Currently SSEA has more than 500 members, and approximately one-third of these members are from outside the United States and Canada.

    The initial SSEA steering committee envisioned many core elements of the society that we continue to embrace as we look to the future of the organization. We have focused on multiple aspects of emerging adulthood, such as identity, substance use, family relationships, and school-to-work transitions. From the start, SSEA has placed a major emphasis on emerging scholars – graduate students, post-docs, and early-career faculty members. Rather than adopt the usual approach where most leadership positions are given to senior professors, in SSEA we purposely sought to place emerging scholars into positions of leadership, where they could be empowered and use their unique vision and enthusiasm to guide the future of the organization.

    Starting in 2013, SSEA established its own journal, Emerging Adulthood. Under the leadership of Manfred van Dulmen, EA quickly became a prominent journal, and we began receiving submissions from leading scholars around the world. Moin Syed, who took over as editor in July 2016, has continued this excellence. The journal has averaged 175 submissions per year, and Sage has informed us that they have requested an impact factor for EA. This is quite an accomplishment for a journal that is finishing only its fourth year of publication!

    Now SSEA is starting a series of new initiatives. One of these is a small grant program targeting scholars from outside North America. It is essential that we facilitate research on emerging adulthood around the world, and the small grant program will provide “seed money” to start (and continue) such research.

    It has been an honor to share this journey with all of you, and with the new members who have been joining us along the way. We look forward to continuing to serve as the international authority on the emerging adult life stage, and as the professional home for scholars who study this phase of life.

    Seth J. Schwartz, SSEA President
    Elizabeth M. Morgan, SSEA President-Elect

  • July 10, 2016 3:13 PM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

     

    The Vast Potential of Our Work – Or, Why are We Really Doing What We Do

    Those of you who are old enough to have watched the Rocky & Bullwinkle show will remember that each episode had two alternative titles, each of which could easily have been the theme of the episode. So, here, we have chosen two alternative titles that are intended to highlight the importance of the work we do, and that will hopefully lead all of us to question how our work can be used to inform public policy.

    The standard currencies in academia are grants, journal articles, books, and the occasional award. Sometimes, as we have been fortunate to have happen to us, we have the opportunity to serve in professional organizations like SSEA. But, for most of us, that’s as far as it goes. We get funded – by granting agencies, or by our universities – to conduct research, and the endpoint of much of the work that academic researchers do is a series of journal articles or book chapters.

    Many times, the furthest we go into the real-world implications of our work is a few sentences or paragraphs toward the end of an article that briefly review some implications of our findings. Often these are implications for future research, occasionally they are for practitioners, and much less often they are for policy.

    Indeed, academic research typically has little impact on policy. Most of the journals we publish in are read primarily by academics, full of jargon and with an obtuse writing style that is often impenetrable to anyone without a master’s or doctoral degree. Academic books also cater primarily to academic audiences. For this and other reasons, it is evident that research findings rarely succeed in influencing policy decisions. Can you imagine a legislator, lobbyist, or judge getting through the results sections of the articles we publish?

    It is because of this common disconnect that the International Consortium of Developmental Science Societies (ICDSS), of which SSEA was one of nine founding societies, has chosen to focus on fostering collective efforts to synthesize developmental science research with the aim of contributing to effective policy. Recognizing that effective communication efforts will require working with multiple stakeholders, honestly brokering summaries of multidisciplinary knowledge, and reliance on evidence from the highest quality research, a primary preliminary aim of ICDSS is to develop research statements to help inform global policy.

    The location of 8th biennial SSEA conference (Washington D.C.) has pushed us to consider how the amazing work that SSEA members do can be influential for public policy. Further, even a cursory examination of the recent Orlando massacre reveals a strong tie to our work – the shooter, Omar Mateen, was an emerging adult, as were most of the victims and the other people in the Pulse nightclub. So how can our research speak to issues such as the Orlando massacre? As President and President-Elect, we would like to start this conversation by taking an inward look at some of our own research areas and how they are applicable to current policy decisions in the United States and beyond.

    SETH: My interests are primarily on the intersection of personal and cultural identities, and how these (and other) identities predict psychosocial and health outcomes during adolescence and emerging adulthood. I focus on both majority and minority ethnic groups, with the understanding that the increasing diversity of our world is prompting most people, regardless of their ethnic background, to understand themselves personally, culturally, sexually, spiritually, morally, and so on.

    Multiple accounts suggest that Omar Mateen was struggling to reconcile his ethnic, religious, and sexual identities. He may have been bisexual, and the shooting may have been a way for him to reconcile his religious faith with confusion about his sexuality. In an article that we have under review, my former PhD student and I argue that the intersection of identities is a critical issue for everyone – as it likely was for Mateen. Will our knowledge about, and understanding of, intersectionality be used to help identify and support people who are struggling to reconcile conflicting identities?

    ELIZABETH: My research primarily explores sexual identity development during emerging adulthood, specifically focused on the ways in which individuals of all sexual orientations make sense and meaning out of their sexual and romantic experiences. This development occurs within social contexts – many of which are unfortunately replete with both overt and covert sexual prejudice and discrimination. Might Omar Mateen have been influenced by this kind of discrimination? Might that, along with what he saw as the demands of his religious faith, kept him from being more comfortable with his sexuality?

    Policies are an important factor in constructing these social contexts. There are vast differences in the policies that directly impact sexual minority emerging adults within the United States and across countries. These range from criminalization of same-sex sexual behavior and affiliation with sexual minorities to inclusive equal access to reproductive technologies and parental leave policies. Given that emerging adulthood is a time of sexual exploration, how can we urge societies to create safe spaces for such exploration and to encourage responsible freedom of sexual expression?

    Indeed, as we learn more about how sexual minority emerging adults navigate social contexts in the process of developing their identities (sexual and otherwise), we become acutely aware of the ways in which policies can impede or enhance positive development for these emerging adults. In addition to the policies that directly empower or threaten sexual minority individuals, there are a number of other direct and indirect ways in which policies impact sexual minority emerging adults. For example, institutions of higher education that explicitly protect the rights of sexual and gender minorities offer safer and more inclusive climates within which these people can more freely pursue their education. Because emerging adults are such a diverse group, it is essential to enact policies to ensure that they are not discriminated against in the job force, housing, health care, or in seeking other services. Given that many immigrants are also sexual minorities, immigration and asylum policies also directly impact many sexual minority emerging adults from across the globe in terms of pursuing opportunity and escaping persecution.

    These are just examples from our own work regarding how the study of emerging adulthood carries critical policy implications. As President and President-Elect of the society, we would like to issue a call for you - SSEA members and affiliates - to engage in a close examination of how your work can be used to better our societies through informing policy decisions. Let’s move beyond our comfortable roles as academics and practitioners and make our research more accessible to policy audiences and forge more effective research-practice-policy relationships. As the 2017 Washington DC conference draws closer, we look forward to more submissions establishing this critical link.

    Seth Schwarz, President

    Elizabeth Morgan, President Elect

  • April 25, 2016 12:50 PM | Elizabeth Morgan (Administrator)

    We are pleased to announce that the dates and location for the 2017 SSEA conference are now set. The conference will be held in Washington D.C. at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, between November 2nd-4th, 2017. Preconference workshops will occur during the morning of November 2nd, and the full conference program will run from the afternoon of Thursday the 2nd through the evening of Saturday the 4th.

    The conference hotel is about a 5-minute walk from Capitol Hill and a short Metro ride from the museums and monuments. The hotel is also about 5 blocks from Union Station, which is both a Metro station and one of the primary stations for Amtrak trains coming from other U.S. cities.

    We are excited to build on the considerable momentum from the 2015 Miami conference. We had a record number of attendees in Miami and fully expect to have even more at the Washington D.C. conference. The invited program is currently being assembled, and the call for submissions will go out in the fall. We will provide travel awards for attendees from outside of North America so that we can maintain the internationally diverse membership for which SSEA has become famous.

    Look for more updates from us soon, but we wanted to share the good news about the location and dates for our next meeting. We look forward to seeing everyone in Washington D.C. in November 2017!!

    Sincerely,

    Seth J. Schwartz, SSEA President

    Elizabeth M. Morgan, SSEA President-Elect

  • September 25, 2015 8:39 AM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

    The 7th Conference on Emerging Adulthood is upon us! In less than 3 weeks, we will be getting together for what should be the best SSEA conference yet.

    As of September 23rd, we already have more paid registrations for this year’s conference than we had attendees at the Chicago conference. We have so many people coming that we twice had to ask the hotel to increase the number of rooms for our conference attendees. Even Friday night, after the conference ends, is completely full. We have more countries represented than ever before. SSEA is over 500 members for the first time ever. These are exciting times for our organization. 

    We now have a new President-Elect, Elizabeth Morgan from Springfield College in Massachusetts. Elizabeth will now become part of the SSEA executive leadership, including Jeff Arnett and myself. As I transition from President-Elect to President, I will focus even more strongly on growing the organization, on linking with other societies, and on important policy issues where our expertise is needed. 

    One of the important links we have established is with the Society for Prevention Research (SPR). SPR focuses on interventions to prevent disease and problem outcomes, as well as to promote positive development, among many age groups (including emerging adults). Our conference program includes an SPR Presidential Symposium, chaired by Richard Catalano from the University of Washington. This symposium will focus on prevention research with emerging adults. Additionally, Michael Cleveland, a prevention scientist who is a member of both SSEA and SPR, is presenting a preconference workshop on latent class and latent transition analysis.

    Speaking of preconference workshops, these workshops are filling up quickly. We would like to ask that everyone please register for preconference workshops by Wednesday, September 30th. Because some of these workshops include lunch, workshop leaders need to have an accurate count of how many people are attending. After September 30th, we will close registration for preconference workshops. This means that onsite registration will not be available for preconference workshops.

    Some of you are probably coming early or staying late so that you can enjoy our tropical sunshine and beaches here in Miami. You can also take a tour of the Florida Everglades, ride in an airboat, and see lots of alligators (from a safe distance, of course). The Florida Keys are only an hour or so away, and Orlando is a 3-hour drive from here. For those of you looking for nightlife, I recommend South Beach (there is a free taxi from the hotel) and Coconut Grove (you’ll need a taxi to get there). I encourage you to enjoy our sights and activities if time permits.

    Just a few words about the weather here for those of you who are not familiar with tropical climates: If you are going to spend time at the beach (or even at the hotel pool), make sure you put on sunscreen every 2 hours. The sun is very strong here and can burn you in less than 30 minutes. You can get a sunburn even if it’s cloudy! And the sun is actually stronger when you're underwater – so make sure your sunscreen is waterproof. Also watch out for heavy rain and lightning, which can appear and disappear very quickly.

    I am looking forward to seeing all of you here next month!

  • March 05, 2015 7:04 PM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

    Over the last several years, there has been an increasing movement to biologize the social sciences (Bandura, 2008; Kagan, 2013; Satel & Lilienfeld, 2013), and this has important implications for those of us who study emerging adulthood. The development of new biological tools in fields such as neuroscience and genetics appears to have been equated with a mandate that these tools must be used in as many studies as possible. Nancy Eisenberg (2014), past president of the Association for Psychological Science, observed that psychology and other social science departments are increasingly hiring researchers who study biological phenomena, or who focus on cognitive processes with direct links to neuroscience. Much of this biologically based hiring is likely a direct result of funding agencies that emphasize biological research, sometimes to the exclusion of social-science work. Many of these funding agencies are directed by medical doctors and biologists who do not appear to recognize the importance of social-science research. Even a brief perusal of the priorities and strategic plans enumerated by these agencies – such as the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse – yields the conclusion that the logical endpoints of these priorities and strategic plans involve advances in medical care and the development of pharmaceutical drugs.

    In other words, social scientists need not apply.

    Although few people would say this publicly, funding agency directors – and, increasingly, academic departments – are saying it implicitly: If it cannot be neuroimaged, genotyped, or assayed, it is not important enough to study. Social-science phenomena are only important if they can be mapped in the brain, associated with genetic polymorphisms, or linked with biomarkers for stress, obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, et cetera. For example, psychological well-being was once considered as an endpoint in itself. Someone who was happy, motivated, and felt a sense of mastery would be considered healthy (Waterman, 2008). But now, psychological well-being is important not necessarily because it feels good and helps us to live successful lives, but more so because it is associated with lower levels of diabetes-related biomarkers (Ryff, 2013). Again, the endpoint is medical care, rather than life success. “Health” is defined narrowly – and medically.

    What does this have to do with emerging adulthood? Well, if the pillars of emerging adulthood – regardless of whether one agrees with Arnett’s five criteria – are social-structural, economic, and cultural, how can we continue to study them as the social sciences are becoming increasingly biologized? How can we convince the funding agencies that support our work, and the departments that hire new researchers, to continue investing in research on successful emerging adulthood and on ways to help emerging adults to succeed in their lives? Biological discoveries and tools are certainly important, but they do not obviate the need to continue with social-science research on this critical time of life.

    Let’s take friendships and family relationships for example. Research has examined the neural mechanisms through which friendships in adolescence can protect against sensitivity to future peer rejection (e.g., Masten, Telzer, Fuligni, Lieberman, & Eisenberger, 2011), and this finding likely applies to emerging adulthood as well. However, even without neural evidence, would we not still know that supportive friendships are good for young people? Friendships nurture young people emotionally and expose them to new ideas and belief systems that they might never have considered before. Many of these experiences occur at “higher” levels of processing that cannot simply be reduced to neurons firing in the brain. Trying to reduce people to brain cells, as some funding agencies would have us do, is not a wise idea. At a certain point, we lose the humanity in the person and are just looking at a bunch of cells. Even if we are considering the effects of environmental and developmental factors on brain functioning, we still miss a lot of we attempt to reduce the person to just a brain.

    Concerning Gene X Environment interactions – another “hot” area being promoted by funding agencies – there is some evidence that the effects of the family environment, for example, may differ between young people with different genetic profiles (Schermerhorn, D’Onofrio, Turkheimer, Ganiban, Spotts, Lichtenstein, Reiss, & Neiderhiser, 2011). However, this does not mean that family environment doesn’t affect quality of life for all adolescents and emerging adults. The finding of fairly modest moderating effects of genetics in links between family relationships and life outcomes is potentially important, but does it mean that social-science research on family relationships should not be conducted unless genetic moderation is examined? What do these genetic moderation effects really tell us in terms of practical applicability? That is, what should we do differently for those adolescents and emerging adults who do versus don’t have a specific genetic polymorphism? The fact that Gene X Environment studies with behavioral outcomes rarely report effect sizes should tell us something. Maybe some of these effects are “sexy” because they’re biological, but they don’t always tell us as much as we might think they would.

    Finally, let’s revisit the biomarkers-as-outcomes research that has gained popularity in recent years. In some ways, this research is extremely important – for example, studying how the body reacts to stress is helping us to understand how health disparities develop, and why people from certain social groups tend to be sicker and die younger compared to people from other social groups. With that said, however, do we always need biomarkers to tell us what is good for us and what isn’t? Do we need cortisol levels to tell us that it hurts to be discriminated against? If we didn’t know that well-being was linked with lower levels of diabetes biomarkers, would we not know that being happy and connected is good for us?

    I should emphasize that I am not against biological research, and I am not against research that includes biological variables along with social-science variables. What I am against is funding-agency priorities and departmental hiring practices that are focused almost entirely on medical care and pharmaceutical drugs, to the exclusion of important social-science outcomes that are not (and do not need to be) medical. If immigrants are moving to new countries and having a hard time getting adjusted, do we need to develop drugs to give them? Or do we need to change the way they are being received in their new homelands? If emerging adults are under stress because they cannot find work, do we need to link this stress to a medical outcome that can be treated with drugs or doctor visits? Or do we need to help these young people to develop skills that they can use to find jobs? If emerging adults are satisfied in their relationships with their parents, friends, and romantic partners, shouldn’t we just celebrate that – rather than trying to find some kind of disease that it protects against?

    Let’s hope that funding agencies and academic departments in our respective countries get the message. Social-science research on emerging adulthood is important and needs to continue – regardless of whether biological variables are included.

     

    References

    Bandura, A. (2008). Reconstrual of “free will” from the agentic perspective of social cognitive theory. In J. Baer, J. C. Kaufman, & R. F. Baumeister (Eds.­), Are we free? Psychology and free will (pp. 86-127). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Eisenberg, N. (2014). Is our focus becoming overly narrow? Retrieved October 15, 2014 at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2014/september-14/is-our-focus-becoming-overly-narrow.html

    Kagan, J. (2013). Equal time for psychological and biological contributions to human variation. Review of General Psychology, 17, 351-357.

    Masten, C. L., Telzer, E. H., Fuligni, A. J., Lieberman, M. D., & Eisenberger, N. I. (2011). Time spent with friends in adolescence relates to less neural sensitivity to later peer rejection. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7, 106-114.

    Ryff, C. D. (2013). Eudaimonic well-being and health: Mapping consequences of self-realization. In A. S. Waterman (Ed.), The best within us: Positive psychology perspectives on eudaimonia (pp. 77-98). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Satel, S., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2013). Brainwashed: The seductive appeal of mindless neuroscience. New York: Basic.

    Schermerhorn, A. C., D’Onofrio, B. M., Turkheimer, E. C., Ganiban, J. M., Spotts, E. L., Lichtenstein, P., Reiss, D., & Neiderhiser, J. M. (2011). A genetically informed study of associations between family functioning and child psychosocial adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 47, 707-725.

    Waterman, A. S. (2008). Reconsidering happiness. A eudaimonist’s perspective. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3, 234-252.

  • December 03, 2014 10:30 PM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

    EMERGING ADULTHOOD AS A TIME FOR IDENTITY – BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? 

    Most of us think of emerging adulthood as a time for identity work, but are we clear on what that means?  When people are exploring or reconsidering their identities, what exactly are they doing?  And what specific areas of life are they doing it in?

    What Is Identity?

    There has been much debate regarding exactly what identity is, and how it operates.  Is identity something that we hold onto and that is largely stable, or is it something that changes almost randomly?  This is more than a theoretical question – it serves as a compass in terms of what we think emerging adults are doing.  Are they constructing (or discovering) something long-term about themselves, or are they just winging it from one situation to the next?  Or could it be both?

    We all play different roles in different areas of our lives.  We are a son or daughter to our parents, a partner and confidant to our significant other, a sounding board (and many other things) to our friends, a parent to our children, an employee to our boss, and a professor to our students – among many other things.

    Do we enact the same “identity” in all of these relationships and situations?  And do these various roles mean the same thing to everyone?  Does everyone even play all of these roles in their lives?

    If you have children, then you get to act out the identity of “parent.”  If you don’t have children, then in most cases you won’t play the role of parent.  If you have a partner, then you will play that role – but if you don’t have a partner, then that is probably not a role you’re playing at this specific time in your life.

    Our “identity” is actually the sum-total of our various roles and commitments – along with the ways in which we act out these commitments.  (I, and others, call this “doing identity.”)  All aspects of our identity are developed and maintained within the context of relationships with other people – and these other people have important effects on the roles and commitments we hold and on how we act them out.  So none of us develop our identities by ourselves.

    Identity is developed and maintained in many different content areas.  These include career/work, committed relationships, ethnicity, nationality, religion/spirituality, gender and sexuality, politics, and morality.  Clearly, not everyone engages in identity work in all of these domains – for example, some people don’t care about politics and don’t think much about it – but everyone does identity work in several domains. 

    Are All Forms of Identity Addressed During Emerging Adulthood?

    One of the central tenets of emerging adulthood theory is that EA is a time of identity exploration.  However, is this true for all content areas?  Do career, relationship, ethnic, national, religious/spiritual, gender, sexual, political, and moral identities all get addressed in the late teens and twenties?  If so, is this true for everyone?

    A study by my mentor Dick Dunham and several of his colleagues indicated that, in most cases, if emerging adults were actively thinking about their identities at all, they were doing so in only one or two content areas.  If you think about it, this makes perfect sense.  Exploring new identity choices requires at least loosening (or preparing to loosen) one’s current commitments. Someone who loosens or discards too many of their commitments won’t have much to hold onto. So, by definition, exploration usually occurs in only one or two content areas at a time. 

    Sometimes we can “package” different identity domains together and explore them simultaneously. For example, as Elli Schachter has found in his work with Orthodox Jews in Israel, one’s religious beliefs might constrain the relationship or sexual options that one can consider. But clearly it is difficult to explore in more than a couple of areas at a time.

    So, again, are all identity domains addressed during emerging adulthood?  Although we undoubtedly need more longitudinal research examining this, the answer is likely to be “it depends.”  It depends on the specific person, her/his life situation (broadly defined), and the cultural context in question.  Because we don’t know exactly when emerging adulthood ends, we don’t know whether a given person who is thinking about identity issues within a given area is still an emerging adult.  If we say that someone is no longer an emerging adult once she/he has entered adult roles such as committed partnership and gainful employment, then by definition some people will leave emerging adulthood at 25, some will do so at 30, and others may not do so until close to 40.  This leaves a lot of leeway for identity issues to be addressed at different points in time, some of which may be beyond the time when the person is no longer an emerging adult.

    Concluding Thoughts

    What can we take from all of this?  Well, if we define the end of emerging adulthood as having made enduring commitments in career and committed partnership (and even this definition is slippery, because some people remain single or are not consistently employed), then for most people these two domains “should” be addressed during emerging adulthood.  Other domains, such as religion/spirituality, ethnicity, and nationality, may never be engaged – again depending on the person in question.  Domains such as sexuality may be engaged differently by different groups of people – for example, people from sexual minority groups will probably spend more time thinking and talking about their sexual identities than heterosexual people will.  But if we expand our definition of “sexual identity” to include the specific sexual practices and acts in which a person prefers (and does not prefer) to engage, then most people likely do consider their sexual identities at some point in time. Most people are sexually active during emerging adulthood, but does this mean that someone who is engaging in sexual behavior has considered her or his sexual identity?  Further, in societies where sexual expression is constrained, how is sexual identity developed?  Does it develop during emerging adulthood?  If not, when (and how) does it develop?

    Finally, if we take into account that emerging adulthood may not exist in all cultural contexts, when (and how) do different aspects of identity develop in these types of contexts?  For example, in societies where careers and romantic partners are assigned rather than chosen, how do other aspects of identity (such as sexuality, ethnicity, and morality) develop?  What role do social contexts (personal relationships, as well as political and religious environments) play in identity development?

    We have much work to do before we can make broad and strong statements about identity in emerging adulthood.  I hope that I have sketched out some of the empirical questions that remain to be examined, and that some of you will pursue these (and other) ideas concerning how people come to understand themselves.

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