The Changing Path to Adulthood

  • Christopher Salvatore


Emerging adulthood evolved as a distinct stage of the life course due to changes in several key areas. These areas include economic shifts, increased freedom for women, increased sexual freedom, and the Youth Movement. Each of these areas is examined, and the influence they have on emerging adulthood discussed and emerging adulthood formally defined. The emerging adulthood gap is presented as a conceptual idea that can help explain behaviors common in emerging adult populations.


Emerging adulthood Emerging adulthood gap Economics Sexual freedom Women’s rights Youth movement 


  1. Arnett, J. J. (1998). Risk behavior and family role transitions during the twenties. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 27, 301–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologists, 55, 469–480. Scholar
  3. Arnett, J. J. (2005). The developmental context of substance use in emerging adulthood. Journal of Drug Issues, 22, 235–254. Scholar
  4. Arnett, J. J. (2007). Emerging adulthood, a 21st century theory: A rejoinder to Hendry and Kloep. Child Development Perspectives, 1, 80–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arnett, J. J. (2015). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burtless, G. (Ed.). (1990). A future of lousy jobs? The changing structure of U.S. wages. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  7. Cote, J. (2000). Arrested adulthood: The changing nature of maturity and identity. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cote, J. E., & Allhar, A. (1995). Generation on hold: Coming of age in the late twentieth century. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Couture, H. (2009). Criminal onset in emerging adulthood. Doctoral dissertation. Retrieved from
  10. Haffejee, B., Yoder, J. R., & Bender, K. (2013). Changes in illegal behavior during emerging adulthood. Advances in Social Work, 14, 458–476.Google Scholar
  11. Leonard, K. (2016). Moms are older than they used to be. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the average age of first motherhood is 26. U.S. News and World Reports. Retrieved from
  12. Lopez, M. H., & Gonzalez-Bararra, A. (2014). Women’s college enrollments leave men behind. Pew Research Center. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from
  13. Marcus, R. F. (2009). Cross-sectional study of violence in emerging adulthood. Aggressive Behavior, 35, 188–202. Scholar
  14. Markowitz, M., & Salvatore, C. (2012). Exploring race based differences in patterns of life-course criminality. Deviant Behavior, 22, 596–605. Scholar
  15. Mata, A. D., & van Dulmen, M. H. M. (2012). Adult onset antisocial behavior trajectories: Associations with adolescent family and processes and emerging adulthood functioning. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27, 177–193. Scholar
  16. Mirel, J. E. (1991). Adolescence in twentieth-century America. In R. M. Learner, A. C. Peterson, & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Encyclopedia of adolescence. New York: Garland.Google Scholar
  17. Moffitt, T. (1993). Adolescent limited and life course persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Piquero, A. R., Brame, R., Mazerolle, P., & Haapanen, R. (2002). Crime in emerging adulthood. Criminology, 40, 137–169. Scholar
  19. Regnerus, M., & Uecker, J. (2011). Premarital sex in America: How young Americans meet, mate, and think about marrying. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Salvatore, C. (2013). Arrested adolescent offenders: A study of delayed transition to adulthood. El Paso, TX: LFB Publications.Google Scholar
  21. Salvatore, C. (2017). The emerging adulthood gap: Integrating emerging adulthood into life course criminology. International Social Science Review, 93. Retrieved from
  22. Salvatore, C., & Markowitz, M. (2014). Do life course transitions and social bonds influence males and females differently? Gender contrasts and criminality. Deviant Behavior, 35, 628–653. Scholar
  23. Salvatore, C., & Taniguchi, T. (2012). Do social bonds matter for emerging adults? Deviant Behavior, 33, 738–756. Scholar
  24. Salvatore, C., Taniguchi, T., & Welsh, W. (2012). Is emerging adulthood influencing Moffitt’s developmental taxonomy? Adding the “prolonged” adolescent offender. Western Criminological Review, 12, 1–15.Google Scholar
  25. Tanner, J. L., & Arnett, J. J. (2009). The emergence of “emerging adulthood”: The new life stage between adolescence and young adulthood. In A. Furlong (Ed.), Handbook of youth and young adulthood. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Twenge, J. M., Sherman, R. A., & Wells, B. E. (2015). Changes in American adults’ sexual behavior and attitudes, 1972–2012. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 8, 2273–2285. Scholar
  27. US Census. (2015). US Census Bureau, table MS-2: Estimated median age at first marriage by sex, 1890 to 2015. Retrieved from
  28. White, H. R., & Jackson, K. (2004). Social and psychological influences on emerging adult drinking behavior. Alcohol Research & Health, 28, 182–190.Google Scholar
  29. Wilkie, J. R. (1981). The trend toward delayed parenthood. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 43, 583–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Salvatore
    • 1
  1. 1.Montclair State UniversityMontclairUSA

Personalised recommendations