Emerging adulthood among former system youth: The ideal versus the realedit
Recent research has indicated that emerging adulthood, the late teen years and early twenties, is a distinct developmental period, which occurs gradually and is often filled with exploration, stress, uncertainty and a lack of a distinct role in life. Few studies, however, have examined how emerging adulthood tenets are experienced by young people involved with social service systems. With this in mind, fifty-nine young adults, ages 18 to 25, participated in in-depth interviews regarding their perspectives on transitioning to adulthood and adulthood. Participants were struggling with emotional difficulties, and shared a childhood history, which included a mood disorder diagnosis and utilization of public mental health and social services (e.g., child welfare, juvenile justice, and/or public welfare). The study sought to understand whether or not young adults with mental health and social service histories experience similar (or different) dimensions of mainstream emerging adulthood developmental theory during the late teens and early twenties. Theoretical thematic analysis indicated support not only for the theory of emerging adulthood, but also aspects unique to this sub-population. Implications for practice, policy and research are discussed.