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  • October 14, 2014 10:05 PM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

    For my second blog entry as President-Elect, I would like to focus on expanding the borders of emerging adulthood. There is a great deal of diversity in the 18-29 year old age range, and our task in the coming years is to explore more and more of that diversity and how it impacts young people.

    Many of the critics of EA theory claim that the theory doesn’t capture enough of the diversity of this age group. A couple of years ago, I attended an SRCD conference on the transition to adulthood. The term “emerging adulthood” was not used in any of the talks that I attended. When I approached one of the invited speakers and asked her why she didn’t use the term EA, she said that it referred to privileged college students and other individuals who had the financial resources to delay the onset of adult responsibilities. A colleague of mine who has an editorial role with one of the adolescent journals refuses to accept any papers that use the term EA, because he says there isn’t any evidence that most young people actually endorse Jeff Arnett’s five criteria.

    The only way to address these critics is with empirical data. Do young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds experience EA? Does getting married or becoming a parent in one’s late teens or early twenties prevent someone from being an emerging adult? Do people who have to go to work to support their families experience emerging adulthood? What about foster children who “age out” of the foster care system – do they experience EA? If these groups of people do experience EA, how do they experience it? How is EA different for them than it is for college students?

    We do know that there is something going on in the late teens and early-to-mid twenties that sets these years apart from adolescence. Brain development accelerates, risky behaviors increase, and the search for a sense of meaning and identity intensifies. These trends hold for both college students and those who don’t attend college. Our late-modern world has made it difficult to stay in one career for very long, such that even those people with no college education need to be fast on their feet. People are moving in and out of relationships more than in the recent past. Social media allow us to create online identities that often bear little resemblance to our daily lives. Although many of these phenomena are present in adolescence and in adulthood, they are experienced most intensely during the EA years.

    I know of no other society that is better positioned to address these key issues than SSEA is.  It’s time for us to put our money where our mouths are. Let’s engage in more creative scholarship regarding EA. Let’s include more diverse individuals and groups in our EA research. Let’s study people from low socioeconomic brackets and find out how they experience EA. Let’s include both college and non-college individuals in the same studies, so that we can isolate the effects of college attendance on EA-related outcomes. Let’s conduct more family research on EA’s, so that we can understand how this age period is experienced within parent-child relationships. Let’s look into what normative emerging adult development looks like for different groups of people, as well as what abnormal emerging adult development looks like. Let’s include the EA criteria as variables in our work so that we can get a sense of how they play into the experience of this life period. And finally, let’s engage with our critics, respect their views, and dialog with them about how we can improve our approaches.

    It is an honor to be your President-Elect, and I look forward to embarking on these adventures with all of you.

  • September 09, 2014 6:30 AM | Lisa Gaudette (Administrator)

    This is the first of a series of blog entries that I’ll be posting during my time in office as President-Elect (and later as President) of SSEA. The purpose of these blogs is to start a conversation with the SSEA membership about who we are and where we want to go as a professional society. But my first blog entry will be more personal – to introduce myself and give you a sense of what I’m about.

    Some of you know me as a friend or colleague, many of you know me as an acquaintance, some of you have heard me speak or read my work, and some of you don’t know me at all. Regardless of which group you fall into, I would like each of you to get to know me better. I am very eager to start working with all of you, and I believe that the best way to start our collaboration is to give you a sense of who I am and how I came to SSEA.

    My original research interest, dating back to the early 1990s, was in identity development. Some of you who have known me for a long time might remember my early days as a graduate student at Florida State University and later at Florida International University. My mentor, Dr. Richard (Dick) Dunham, introduced me to identity research in January 1991, and I was hooked. I still have my master’s thesis dataset that I gathered at Florida State back in 1994 and 1995.

    When I moved to Miami to attend Florida International University for my PhD, I experienced a serious case of culture shock. Going from Tallahassee (a small, Southern American town) to Miami (an international, multicultural city) was like moving to another planet. It was hard for me to believe that so many emerging adults still lived at home with their parents! I left home when I finished high school, and I never went back – and I always thought that everyone followed that path. Boy, was I wrong.

    One of the most important things I’ve learned during my 18 years living in Miami is the importance of culture.  Living in such a diverse place taught me that my own cultural orientation was just that – my own cultural orientation. Watching people from so many different countries and backgrounds interact with each other, become friends with each other, and even marry each other was fascinating to me. Clearly, there was more to identity than just one’s own goals and plans. The cultural behaviors, beliefs, and attachments that each person carries are part of that person’s sense of self as well.

    So I became a cultural identity researcher, which is probably how most people know me now. I study immigrant adolescents, emerging adults, and families because I am fascinated at how people adapt to a new cultural environment (usually without losing their core sense of self). I’ve known people who risked everything they had – sometimes even risking their lives – to move to a new country with more opportunities for themselves and their families. I’ve seen young people thrive in spite of challenges that I couldn’t even imagine having to face. And even though some of my research interests are in risky behaviors, I’ve always maintained an optimistic view of human nature. Everyone is capable of doing well and contributing to society – regardless of their gender, ethnic group, national background, or sexual orientation. I believe in the greatness of the human spirit – I’ve seen too many people overcome the odds to believe otherwise.

    I stayed in Miami after finishing my PhD. I met the love of my life and married her just after defending my dissertation, so I found a position at the University of Miami medical school. I have now been at UM for 14 years and became a full professor at the beginning of June. One of the greatest joys I’ve experienced during my years as a faculty member – aside from raising my two daughters – has been mentoring young scholars. I got into academia because I wanted to do for others what Dick Dunham did for me. I wanted to get young people started and help them establish a research program for themselves. Dick gave me the confidence that I could succeed as a researcher, and passing that gift on to others is an amazing experience. Watching one of my mentees publish a paper or write a grant is like watching one of my kids say their first words or take their first steps. The satisfaction I get from mentoring and encouraging others is a major reason why I wanted to be president of a young, growing organization like SSEA.

    I’ve also worked with a lot of colleagues from other countries, and that is another reason I was attracted to SSEA. I was at the first SSEA meeting at Harvard University in October 2003, and the society was international even then. Jeff Arnett and Jenn Tanner worked hard to reach out to people from outside the United States, and their efforts have paid off. None of the other societies I belong to place such a strong emphasis on being international and on incorporating culture into their culture – and given how important culture is to my work, I knew SSEA would be my academic home as soon as I attended that first conference 11 years ago.

    I’m looking forward to the next conference in Miami – where I will be the host as well as the incoming president. I’m proud to live here and to call this city home. The cultural diversity in Miami is amazing – my kids have friends from so many different countries – and it reminds me of how important culture is in everything we do. I can’t wait to share this wonderful city with all of you next year. And I’m really excited to start our work together in SSEA.


    Seth J. Schwartz, President-Elect

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