Emerging Adulthood and Culture

Based on a paper titled “Emerging Adulthood and Culture” by Misty Smith. Originally published on January 12, 2015, for PSY 205 at the University of Phoenix.


Emerging Adulthood and Culture


What is the meaning of emerging adulthood in today’s society? Emerging adulthood is, “a new transitional period extending from the late teens to the mid‐ to late‐twenties…” (Berk, 2014). However, some individuals argue that “…emerging adults have left adolescence but are still a considerable distance from taking on adult responsibilities.” (Berk, 2014). For example, a twenty-three-year-old may be considered an adult by age; however, if that same twenty-three-year-old is not properly taking on adult responsibilities, such as paying rent, bills, working a job if able, they may not be ready for proper adult responsibilities.

American Culture and Emerging Adulthood

In the present day American society, emerging adults are between the ages of 18-25. It is during this time that individuals start planning for their own family life. Some individuals choose to move far away from their families to attend college, while others decide to stay at home and take advantage of free or reduced rents under their parents care. Emerging adults are also pushed to start careers that will provide for their current and future needs. However, other individuals elect to start families right away and bypass college altogether.

Global Cultures and Emerging Adulthood

Around the world, various cultures have different expectations of what it means to “become an adult”; and they all vary differently. One such culture is seen with the people known as the Borana, who live in southern Ethiopia along the Kenyan Border. The Borana do not attend school or have towns with modern conveniences, and they are a nomadic people. They live off the land, and families take care of one another. The women and children are solely responsible for the livestock until they reach the age of emerging adulthood. For the female Borana, they are ready to be placed in an arranged marriage around the age of sixteen; which is considered their transition into adulthood. On the other hand, the male Borana are trained by their fathers in the trade of salt labor at the early age of ten to twelve. The training of the salt trade is consistent in the Borana males to become emerging adults in which they will be able to take care of their future families (Vaire, 2006).

Quinceañera Celebration

The next example of emerging into adulthood can be found in the Mexican tradition of the quinceañera. “One of the most important celebrations in Mexican culture is the tradition of the quinceañera. This constitutes a ceremony on a girl’s fifteenth birthday to mark her passage to womanhood, to give thanks to God for his blessings, and to present a young woman to the community” (“The Quinceañera Celebration”, n.d.). These ceremonies are very important to a young woman of Mexican heritage and are taken very seriously. “In former times, the girl’s fifteenth birthday would have signaled that she was an active, adult member of the community, fully ready to take on her share of responsibilities, and indicated that she was of marriageable age and status” (“The Quinceañera Celebration”, n.d.).

The Chinese people have many varied emerging adult ceremonies that date back to ancient times. Becoming an adult in the Chinese culture was important and brought your family create honor. Two examples of these “coming of age” ceremonies are, first, “At the age of 15 to 17, girls of the Yi minority will have a skirt-changing ceremony, during which the girls will take off the skirts they wear in the childhood, and change into the adult skirts, symbolizing their coming of age” (“Adult Ceremony In China”, n.d.). Second, “The Pumi people will hold an adult ceremony when they are 13. They will first step on a piece of fat with their right foot, then step on a rice bag with their left foot, and finally kowtow respectively to the cooking stove, senior members of the family, and elder brothers in order. Thereafter, they should follow the dressing way of the adults and take part in social activities at will” (“Adult Ceremony In China”, n.d.).

One comparison of the various cultures this paper has touched on is the theme of responsibility. No matter where the individual may be on planet earth, the theme remains the same. To become an adult, one must learn what it is to be responsible for oneself, one’s family, or one’s community.

Transitioning Into Middle Adulthood

Transitioning into middle adulthood can be difficult for many individuals. “Middle adulthood, which begins around age 40 and ends at about 65, is marked by narrowing life options and a shrinking future as children leave home and career paths become more determined” (Berk, 2014). It is during this time that many individuals suffer from depression from the changes in their normal day-to-day lives. For example, if the individual raised a family, it is during this time that the children normally start to leave home to start their own adult lives. As a result, the parent who is left behind can experience depression and “empty nest syndrome.” Some mothers may even question if they are still a good mother because their children may no longer be dependent on them. Furthermore, it is during middle adulthood that many individuals may experience fear over their future; whether it be health or financially related.

In conclusion, the meaning “emerging adult” varies across the globe. As such, different cultures have different age ranges and responsibilities. Furthermore, not everyone is ready to become an adult when their cultures say it is time. Being an adult means that the individual cannot only care for themselves independently but also for others. Furthermore, transitioning into middle adulthood can be traumatic for some, as they are learning to live a completely new lifestyle that they have been accustomed too.



Adult Ceremony in China. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://traditions.cultural- china.com/features/adultceremony/

Berk, L.E. (2014). Development Through The Lifespan (6th ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.

The Quinceañera Celebration. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/chngmexico/218

Vaire, X. (2006). Becoming a Man Among the Borana [Video file]. Retrieved from VAST: Academic Video Online website:



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