“Emerging Adulthood” by David Green

ZCommunications | “Emerging Adulthood” by David Green | ZNet Article.

20-Somethings and Bad Social Science in the Neoliberal Era

New York Times Magazine picture, Emerging Adulthood theory

In the title of an 8000-word article in the New York Times Magazine (August 18th), Robin Marantz Henig asks: “What Is It About 20-somethings? Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?” The questions and answers are based on research by Clark University psychologist Jeffrey Arnett that has provided the foundation for the recently-popularized “developmental stage” of “emerging adulthood.” Arnett’s fame and fortune began with a “seminal” 2000 article in American Psychologist. “Emerging adulthood” is now for all practical academic purposes certified as a standard stage of human development, with its own body of research and yearly conferences.

My major contentions in addressing this research are three-fold: First, beyond its purely descriptive efforts (which, based on this article, are nevertheless inadequate), this is pretentious social science with no sound theoretical basis in human development, psychology, or sociology. Second, it is bad social science precisely because it avoids what might make it plausible and useful social science—a consideration of the economic neo-liberalization of post-adolescence over the past three to four decades. Third, proposing “emerging adulthood” as another ever-so-profound and “vital” stage of youth’s emotional and psychological development serves to de-politicize what is ultimately a “stage” of life that, if anything, has been shaped by ruthlessly political and volitional elite ideologies and policies. Read more of this post