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School Counseling, Counseling Services


During the past decade, research examining 18- to 29-year-olds has resulted in the recognition of emerging adulthood as being a distinct developmental stage. Changing societal conditions during the latter 20th century have contributed to a prolonged identity exploration process that extends well into the twenties. This period encompasses both increased autonomy compared to adolescence and also a moratorium from adult responsibilities, resulting in a subjective feeling of being ‘in-between’.

Converging with these changes are the many life transitions that are experienced during emerging adulthood. It is common for an emerging adult to graduate high school, leave home, enter college or professional school, begin a career, marry or establish a domestic partnership, and begin having children. A growing body of evidence suggests that the prolonged identity exploration of emerging adulthood is contributing to the experience of considerable distress and psychological crisis during these transitions. Though it seems that not all emerging adults experience significant difficulties during these transitions, others react with elevated distress and reduced well-being. The potential for elevated distress during these transitions is problematic given that emerging adulthood is considered a critical juncture in the development of mental illness and substance abuse, and that elevated distress has been shown to promote impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors in emerging adulthood. The elevated distress associated with emerging adult transitions, therefore, poses a considerable threat to well-being.

These issues provided the basis for the presenter’s dissertation study. Specifically, the study utilized structural equation modeling to examine the role of attachment representations and social supports in promoting well-being among a large sample of emerging adults experiencing various life transitions. The findings indicated, in part, that emerging adults were able to maintain psychological well-being and life satisfaction as a function of secure attachment relationships and positive social supports. This program will provide a detailed overview of these findings, and their implications for counseling emerging adult clients.


Presented at the 2014 American Mental Health Counselors Association Annual Conference, Seattle, WA.

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