Age 18 – 25: Not quite a teen, not fully an adult

As we all know, the teenage years can be a time of huge emotional upheaval. But research gathered, analyzed and published this summer by the MIT Young Adult Development Project suggests that the years from 18 to 25 should be regarded as a specific developmental period with its own characteristics, milestones and limitations–a time of stunning accomplishment, wonderful energy, and creativity as well as chilling risk as young adults are propelled into full maturity.

A. Rae Simpson, the program director of parenting education and research at MIT’s Center for Work, Family and Personal Life, and the creator of the Young Adult Development Project is an authority on parenting and adolescent issues.

She examined more than 500 articles and other sources about the young adult years, with a special focus on about 30 researchers and bases her conclusions in part on research that indicates that some important developments in the prefrontal cortex of the brain don’t occur until the early 20s. But she also considers cultural factors: Today’s American young adults are attending school longer, delaying marriage and often living at home due to economic pressure. “The kind of milestones that we have associated with adulthood are happening later in the 20s,” she says.

Simpson’s work has implications for colleges and universities hoping to ease student stress and depression as well as for parents dealing with adult children and employers and human service providers working with young adults. Young adults also may gain greater understanding into their own psyche.

So good news, the quarterlife-crisis that we were all afraid we were making up is real!

Click here to download a print-friendly PDF summary of the report; or click here to download a PDF version of a set of PowerPoint slides summarizing the web material.


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