Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Elizabeth I. Johnson

Committee Members

Priscilla Blanton, Spencer Olmstead, John Orme


U.S. census data suggests that young people today are entering marriage (U. S. Census Bureau, 2011) and parenthood (U. S. Census Bureau, 2012) later than young people in previous decades. Delayed trajectories have led researchers to reconsider the nature of development from adolescence to adulthood and has given way to the construct of emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000a). Although this construct has been largely embraced by contemporary scholars, questions remain about the universality of emerging adulthood and whether or not it accurately captures the experiences of young people who do not pursue postsecondary education as well as those who have transitioned out of postsecondary education but who are still within the emerging adulthood age range of 18 to 29. The purpose of this study was to explore the attainment of traditional adult roles and the degree to which young people endorse the emerging adult dimensions among a sample of emerging adult college/university students, nonstudents, and graduates.

The final sample (n = 101) consisted primarily of women (69.3%) who identified as White (89.1%). In terms of education status, 30.7% were students, 32.7% (n = 33) were nonstudents, and 36.6% (n = 37) were graduates. Results were that graduates were more likely than students to be married and employed, nonstudents were more likely to be parents than both students and graduates, and groups did not statistically differ on type of living arrangement. Groups also differed in their responses to three of the five emerging adult dimensions. Students endorsed age of feeling in-between to a greater extent than did nonstudents and graduates endorsed age of possibilities and time of self-focus more than nonstudents. In regards to the counterpart of other-focus, nonstudents scored higher on this subscale than did both students and graduates. Results are discussed in terms of implications for the emerging adulthood construct and development during this period in the life course.

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