While laws consider 18 years as the majority age that legally turns an adolescent into a full-fledged adult, modern psychologists give a different opinion. Based on research studies conducted by neuroscientists, even if a child turns 18, he or she is just entering the stage of “emerging adulthood.”

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, PhD, a Developmental Psychologist and Senior Research Scholar at Clark University, had originated the “emerging adulthood” theory. He has conducted research that led to a deeper understanding that at age 18 and up to 25 years old, young adults are still going through brain development processes. After seven years of going through that period under a reasonable environment and culture, a young legal adult can be expected to have developed the reasoning power and ability to control impulses,

What Transpires During “Emerging Adulthood” Period?

Professor Arnett further explained that there are five aspects that make the “emerging adulthood” stage a distinct period in a young adult’s life, namely:

  • Identity exploration
  • Focus on one’s self
  • Feelings of instability
  • Experiencing In-between sentiments of adolescence and adulthood
  • Awareness of broad possibilities

However, Professor Arnett also points out that the “emerging adulthood” period is mainly found in countries with industrialized environments; where it is common for young adults to undergo tertiary education, enter into marriage at median ages and become parents by age 30.

Reference to median age depends on the single index summarizing the age distribution of a certain population, which when halved determines the median age of that country or region.

Understanding the Significance of the “Emerging Adulthood” Theory to Parenting

While it is true that by the age of 18, parents can choose to relieve themselves of their obligation to provide financial support to a legally adult child, understanding the theory of “emerging adulthood” should give us better insight on our role as parents.

Many adults can relate to the experiences highlighted as distinct aspects of the “emerging adulthood” theory. Perhaps, an understanding of the theory gave enlightenment on why they themselves had encountered difficulties in making decisions, and in controlling their impulses during that stage in their life.

The greater significance of being able to comprehend and relate to the theory is that we as parents, will have a realization that our young adults still need help in navigating their way through the complexities of the world.

We, as parents should still let our young legal adults feel and know that we have their back, to help them go through the “emerging adulthood” period with fewer difficulties and mental anguish.

Simple acts of knowing what to give them as gifts on special occasions will indicate that we support our 18-year old son or daughter’s plans for the future. In knowing if our young adult now wears a medium, large or extra-large size tees, or is choosing a new color as preference, or has a newfound interest, we are also letting him or her know that we pay attention to what they say and do. Even the act of choosing high quality gifts that our 18-year old child cannot afford to buy with his or her salary, can indicate our willingness to give them financial support when needed.