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Emerging adulthood among former system youth: The ideal versus the real


  • Munson, Michelle R.
  • Lee, Bethany R.
  • Miller, David
  • Cole, Andrea
  • Nedelcu, Cristina


Recent research has indicated that emerging adulthood, the late teen years and early twenties, is a distinct developmental period, which occurs gradually and is often filled with exploration, stress, uncertainty and a lack of a distinct role in life. Few studies, however, have examined how emerging adulthood tenets are experienced by young people involved with social service systems. With this in mind, fifty-nine young adults, ages 18 to 25, participated in in-depth interviews regarding their perspectives on transitioning to adulthood and adulthood. Participants were struggling with emotional difficulties, and shared a childhood history, which included a mood disorder diagnosis and utilization of public mental health and social services (e.g., child welfare, juvenile justice, and/or public welfare). The study sought to understand whether or not young adults with mental health and social service histories experience similar (or different) dimensions of mainstream emerging adulthood developmental theory during the late teens and early twenties. Theoretical thematic analysis indicated support not only for the theory of emerging adulthood, but also aspects unique to this sub-population. Implications for practice, policy and research are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Munson, Michelle R. & Lee, Bethany R. & Miller, David & Cole, Andrea & Nedelcu, Cristina, 2013. "Emerging adulthood among former system youth: The ideal versus the real," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(6), pages 923-929.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:35:y:2013:i:6:p:923-929
    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2013.03.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Goodkind, Sara & Schelbe, Lisa A. & Shook, Jeffrey J., 2011. "Why youth leave care: Understandings of adulthood and transition successes and challenges among youth aging out of child welfare," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 1039-1048, June.
    2. Joseph Henrich & Steve J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan, 2010. "The Weirdest People in the World?," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 139, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
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    Cited by:

    1. Munson, Michelle R. & Stanhope, Victoria & Small, Latoya & Atterbury, Kendall, 2017. "“At times I kinda felt I was in an institution”: Supportive housing for transition age youth and young adults," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 430-436.
    2. Lawler, Michael J. & Sayfan, Liat & Goodman, Gail S. & Narr, Rachel & Cordon, Ingrid M., 2014. "Comprehensive residential education: A promising model for emerging adults in foster care," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 10-19.
    3. repec:eee:cysrev:v:77:y:2017:i:c:p:147-152 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Greeson, Johanna K.P. & Garcia, Antonio R. & Kim, Minseop & Thompson, Allison E. & Courtney, Mark E., 2015. "Development & maintenance of social support among aged out foster youth who received independent living services: Results from the Multi-Site Evaluation of Foster Youth Programs," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 1-9.
    5. repec:eee:cysrev:v:81:y:2017:i:c:p:332-339 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Singer, Erin Rebecca & Berzin, Stephanie Cosner & Hokanson, Kim, 2013. "Voices of former foster youth: Supportive relationships in the transition to adulthood," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 2110-2117.


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