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Description: Ok, this post is not going to be anywhere near long enough to convey all that it should. That said, I am going to introduce you to two HUGE developmental concepts and then after only a bare “hello” I am going to toss an article at you that smacks them together in an interesting way. Thirty years ago I completed my doctoral dissertation on Cognitive, Epistemic, and Identity development among adolescents and university students. The general view at that time (early to mid-1980’s) was that young people would and should have their identity developmental business pretty much in hand by the time they started their post-secondary adventures or at least shortly after they took them up (either in a college or university or elsewhere in life itself).

Over the past 6 years I have gathered a lot more data from students taking my introductory psychology courses and things are clearly different now than way way back when I gathered my dissertation data (and please don’t agree with the way way back part so quickly as it makes me feel very old indeed!). One of the big changes is the one that has cleared space for a new developmental stage or life phase called Emerging Adulthood (see the book picture cover and reference below). the world is a more complicated place thanks to globalization and general diversity and also thanks to changes in employment options all of which means that it take longer to for many people in  their 20’s to get it figured out to the extent necessary for them to make proper commitments to career and other life plans or courses. While this can make them seem uncertain or “Diffused” to use a long lived and still viable identity status or style label it may actually be that they are holding off on taking strong life positions while they explore a massively broader array of perspective, options, and opportunities. I will be writing more about emerging adulthood and related developmental issues and possibilities in coming weeks.

But, for now, if emerging adulthood is about taking time to explore and more deeply understand ones options and possibilities how do you think that developmental opportunity might be effected if the one had experienced several significant, prolonged adverse childhood experiences? I am not talking here about not winning a ribbon at sports day in elementary school. Rather, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) involve a number of things like child abuse, parental neglect, being bullied, personal or parental mental illness (for the standard list see the Further Reading list) any or all of which have serious impacts on the developmental pathways and outcomes of those who experience them.  So the article linked below asks what the effects of ACE’s might be on emerging adulthood.

OK, with that thin introduction to the concepts involved, what do you think? What would you hypothesize as possible effects of ACE’s on emerging adulthood (development through the 20’s)?

Oh and welcome to emerging adulthood if you are in the range!

Source: Davis, J. P., Dumas, T. M., & Roberts, B. W. (2017). Adverse Childhood Experiences and Development in Emerging Adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, pdf full text article link is below under the Source heading.

Date: September 20, 2017

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Links:  Article Link —

I will leave you to evaluate how your hypotheses fared (at least in terms of the data gathered in the article linked above). What I WILL suggest you consider is whether you are comfortable with the interpretations and conclusions drawn by the authors of the linked article as to how ACE’s effect development in emerging adulthood. While there is a lot there to think about and a lot to like I would just offer one more thing to think about. There is substantial evidence in the developmental research literature on resilience that suggests two things. First, that adverse childhood experiences can have serious developmental impacts both because of opportunities lost as a result of exposure and as a result of alternative developmental pathways trodden as a result of early adverse experiences. The resilience literature (search on that key term on this blog if you would like some references) indicates that an important necessary step towards overcoming early adverse experience is a conscious realization that there was a developmental impact of early adverse experiences and a related conscious commitment to doing things differently (e.g., like a young adult contemplating parenthood and realizing they want to and are determined to be a different kind of parent for their own child or children they their own parent or parents were of them). Something of that degree of reflectivity is, in my mind, a central and defining feature of emerging adulthood. So perhaps it is only partly the ACE’s in our lives we need to worry about and what we get more developmental mileage from is focusing on how we are thinking about and focusing upon the developmental baggage that are any ACE’s in our childhood with eyes on how were are working on them and moving forward away from or in spite of them. Anyway, more on emerging adulthood in weeks to come!


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is emerging adulthood?
  2. What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and why do they matter developmentally?
  3. How might we think about the interface and possible interference of ACE’s with development in emerging adulthood?

References (Read Further):

Jensen, J. (2014). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. (2nd Edition) Oxford University Press.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale

Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American psychologist, 55(5), 469.

Foege, W. H. (1998). Adverse childhood experiences. A public health perspective. Am J Prev Med, 14(4), 354-55.