Welcome to the Adulthood Project! This is a research project led by Professor Holly Swyers at Lake Forest College. The objective of the project is to learn how Americans are socially defining adulthood in the early 21st century. There are three reasons we are investigating this question:
1) A lot of the external markers of adulthood (e.g. being financially independent, getting married, buying a home) have changed in the last 60 years. As the social expectations change, it gets harder for parents to advise their children and feel confident in their advice. On the flip side, young people feel anxiety about their transitions to adulthood and whether or not they will ever reach adulthood. We are interested in discovering the variety of ways that people have become adult in the past and the ways that people tackle the transition to adulthood now. We suspect that the past was not as straightforward as younger generations believe and that young people are less off-course than older generations perceive, and we are collecting data and personal histories to investigate this hypothesis.
2) People often are doing all the things that adults are supposed to do but say they do not feel like adults. We want to discover if there is a standard way that Americans feel when they say they feel "grown up" and whether adulthood is a state people reach or a feeling that people experience only part of the time. We are particularly interested in what kind of situations make Americans feel adult.
3) There seem to be two concerns about youth in the 21st century: a) they grow up too fast, and b) they never really grow up. We think this is related to the idea that people believe there is a certain order in which people should learn things in U.S. culture. However, is there agreement about what that order should be? And who gets to decide? What are the consequences for people who disagree? We hope to uncover the answers to these questions.