18th Annual Symposium on Family Issues - Early Adulthood in a Family Context

Date 10/12/10 to 10/13/10
Location Nittany Lion Inn, University Park campus
Description

Co-organized in 2010 with the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University.

Early adulthood (ages 18-24) is a period characterized by social-emotional, cognitive and physical development, evidenced in increasing autonomy from parents, financial independence, romantic relationship involvement, and transitions into parenthood. It is a critical life period because the timing and sequencing of these developments set the stage for later health and well-being as well as for future psychological development, achievement, and family and intimate relationship experiences. Young adults do not navigate emerging adulthood alone, and often require substantial support from their families of origin to successfully accomplish the many developmental tasks of this period. In addition, although family formation is increasingly delayed, some men and women marry or become parents early, and others form romantic relationships. The 2010 symposium will focus on the family contexts of early adulthood, emphasizing the importance of both the family of origin and new and highly variable types of family formation experiences that occur in early adulthood.

Not all young adults share the same pathways through young adulthood. There is diversity in the trajectories of young adults, reflecting not only variation due to structural factors such as socioeconomic status, gender, and race/ethnicity, but also individual differences in social, cognitive and emotional development and adjustment which are shaped in part by early and ongoing family dynamics. Families of origin are increasingly complex due to non-marital childbearing, divorce, cohabitation and remarriage as well as the health and well-being of their members. Young adults' ability to draw on family resources varies according to the characteristics of their family of origin. Individual and group differences in the family supports available to young adults may be especially pronounced in the current time period, given the growth of income inequality over the last several decades and the severity of the current recession.

The 2010 symposium has two core goals that will showcase new theoretical, methodological, and measurement insights. The first goal is to advance understanding of the influence of the family of origin on young adults' lives--recognizing the increasing diversity and complexity of the family. Both family resources and constraints with respect to economic, social, and human capital will be considered, as will the nature and extent of young adults' responsibilities to their families of origin. The second goal is to build our knowledge about family formation and stability in early adulthood. Given delays in the timing of marriage for most young adults, the early adult years provide opportunities for a wide range of relationships. Empirical studies and theoretical developments, however, have not kept pace with the relationship and family experiences of young adults. Along with its emphasis on the family contexts of early adulthood, the symposium will highlight two additional important themes: diversity in young adult development and the role of the broader economic climate. Research will draw on comparisons within young adulthood as well as contrasting young adults to teens and older adults.

What is the contemporary context of young adulthood?
This session will focus on the key developmental tasks of young adulthood and the role of the larger social and economic environment in young adults' trajectories. Speakers will address changes in the context of early adulthood over the last several decades, including very recent changes due to the economic downturn. Diversity by SES, race/ethnicity, and gender in the resources and opportunities available to young adults to address developmental tasks in the domains of education, employment, and family will be emphasized. Also of interest is how differences in resources and opportunities result in a diversity of pathways to adulthood and what roles do social institutions (e.g., educational, military, penal) play in the nature and course of early adulthood for diverse youth.

Lead speaker: Richard Settersten, Professor, College of Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University

Discussants:
Jeylan Mortimer, Professor of Sociology, Life Course Center, University of Minnesota
Ross Macmillan, Associate Professor of Sociology, Director of the Life Course Center, University of Minnesota
Jennifer Maggs, Professor, Human Development & Family Studies, Penn State

What are the key elements of parent-child relationships that facilitate successful transitions during young adulthood?
The second session will focus on the diversity and multi-faceted nature of young adults' relationships with their parents, including the developmental history of those relationships. Speakers will discuss ways in which children's early socio-emotional development and parent-child relationship quality are linked to young adult health, adjustment, achievement, and the parent-young adult relationship. Also of importance is how dimensions of parent-child relationships in young adulthood, ranging from emotional connectedness and contact to provision of material support, are linked to young adults' well-being. Of special interest is whether family support and family relationships vary across groups defined by social class and race/ethnicity, and by family members' values, cultural practices, and health and adjustment.

Lead speaker: Karen Fingerman, Berner-Hanley Professor in Gerontology, Department of Child Development & Family Studies, Purdue University

Discussants:
Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, Associate Professor of Sociology, Washington State University
Kelly Musick, Associate Professor, Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University
Wayne Osgood, Professor of Crime, Law, and Justice, and Sociology, Department of Sociology, Penn State

What are the types and trajectories of romantic and sexual relationships in young adulthood?
In this session, presenters will consider the type and timing, as well as the nature (quality and stability), of young adults' romantic and sexual relationships. Variation according to social structural factors will be examined, including social class, gender, and race/ethnicity. Speakers will address how families of origin support and influence young adult dating, cohabiting, and marital unions. In addition, the role of peers' and partners' characteristics, including economic (education and work) achievements, health and adjustment, and attitudes and values will be investigated. Of particular interest is how the current economic climate is linked to union formation and stability as well as union formation expectations. An overarching theme will be how the diversity of relationships in early adulthood challenges our theoretical and empirical understanding of marriage.

Lead speaker: Peggy C. Giordano, Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology, Bowling Green State University

Discussants:
Frank Fincham, Dean, College of Social Work, Eminent Scholar and Director, Florida State University Family Institute
Kelly Raley, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

What are the timing and family contexts of fertility in young adulthood?
Young adults' parenting related decisions and behaviors will be the focus of the fourth session. One goal is to examine the characteristics of young adults who have children and how these characteristics may be related to fertility timing. Family context, including fertility and parenting outside of unions, in cohabiting unions, or with multiple partners, will be considered. The quality of young adults' relationships with their offspring and their partners, as well as the role of the family of origin in adjustment to parental roles, are of interest. The session will include attention to the consequences of parenthood for young adults' adjustment and development, including their work and education trajectories.

Lead speaker: Kathy Edin, Professor of Public Policy and Management, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government

Discussants:
Daniel T. Lichter, Ferris Family Professor and Professor of Sociology, Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University
Marcy Carlson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin

How has the study of emerging adulthood advanced since 2000 and where does it need to go?

Lead speaker: Jeffrey Arnett, Research Professor, Department of Psychology, Clark University, Worcester

Book Citation

Booth, A., Brown, S. L., Landale, N., Manning, W. D., & McHale, S. (Eds.). (2011). Early adulthood in a family context. New York: Springer.

Book Access Information

If your university library subscribes to Springer's eBook package, you will now be able to read the book online, download chapters and/or purchase a $24.95 paperback version of the book through the service MyCopy. Check with your university library to find out if the eBook package has been purchased and if the MyCopy feature is turned on. Then search in your library's catalog system for the book title. You should be directed to www.springer.com.

Download iCal