What Young Adults Think Influences When They Transition to Adulthood

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Graduating from college is still one of the most visible markers of the transition to adulthood, but it’s not the only one. Brian J. Willoughby, a professor in our School of Family Life, co-authored a study that revealed that a young adult’s approach to marriage and family could impact when, if at all, specific adult roles are realized.

The study, published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues, recognizes that marriage can be, of course, another major indicator of adulthood. Ashley Wade Puriri, a recently-graduated FHSS alum, accomplished both benchmarks in less than two years. She met her husband playing soccer when mutual friends invited them to a game. They’ve been married for almost 18 months and moved to New Zealand after Ashley’s graduation from Brigham Young University last week.

She says: “being married has re-shaped my goals and approach to career and family,” Puriri says. “It introduced possibilities that I did not think about before I was married.” Like her, many others in similar circumstances find themselves re-assessing their priorities upon marriage.

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As such, the purpose of the study was to “investigate the relative prioritizing of anticipated career and family roles among young adults in the context of other behaviors and attitudes related to the transition to adulthood.” Not surprisingly, they found that:

“ways of viewing adult roles correspond to…attitudes and behaviors related to those roles that reflect subjective meanings pertaining to the roles. Furthermore, the attitudes and behaviors potentially influence the likelihood of the adult roles being realized. As a sample of single, young adults, it is expected that the participants were developmentally preoccupied with establishing their social, adult identities (Arnett2000); and as (mostly white) college students they likely believed their current circumstances afforded them numerous career and relationship options (Arnett 2004).”

Young adults reassess their roles and the order of importance they give them as their worldviews and circumstances expand to include other people. Puriri says her transition to adulthood evolved with her marriage and affects, in a positive way, her career decisions.

“Everything now is focused on both of our successes and personal happiness,” Puriri says. “A big part of our marriage is supporting each other in our respective goals.”

 

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