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Who are Emerging Adults and How Are Their Needs Different?

  • Posted at Apr 21, 2023
  • Written by Rebecca
Who are Emerging Adults and How Are Their Needs Different?

Emerging adults have different needs and experiences than fully-fledged adults. Their experiences and present circumstances put them at the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood – posing developmentally specific challenges. Since this window of development is also the time that 75% of all mental illnesses arise, emerging adults struggling with the onset of mental health challenges have even greater needs requiring individualized and person-centered care. But, who are emerging adults and what are their needs?

Who Are Emerging Adults?

Emerging adults is a term used to describe individuals who are within a certain age range (17 – late 20s). Neuroimaging of emerging adults’ brains demonstrates that their brains have not yet fully developed in areas noted below which are critical for maturation into adulthood. The developmental challenges are difficult to navigate but, combined with the onset of mental illness, hold the risk for derailing the trajectory of life.

The areas of emerging adults’ brains which are maturing correspond to the following functions within their minds:

  • Consolidation of a centered and coherent values/beliefs anchored self-identity
  • Capacity to regulate distress and difficult or intense emotions/li>
  • Consolidation of problem solving, planning and basic life-skills
  • Creating a vision for an education and career path
  • Capacity for a range of attachments and an arc of intimacy
  • Negotiating the separation and loss experiences of leaving home
  • Renegotiating power and autonomy in relation to parents

The functional outcome of successfully meeting these challenges in brain/mind maturation include:

  • Becoming financially responsible for oneself
  • Ownership for one’s choices and actions towards meeting one’s needs; and their consequences
  • Competence for self-care & life-skills
  • Motivation internally towards a life plan
  • Creation of a peer-based support system
  • Connected autonomy with parents

Why Emerging Adults Are Different in This Time Period

It may seem that emerging adulthood wasn’t something that was an issue throughout history. Historically, individuals left home and went on to start their families, careers, and lives without much issue. The research of Jeffrey Arnett PhD has clarified that societal changes due to technological, political (like women’s movements), economic and cultural evolution has in essence created a new window of development with its own characteristics and needs. For example, technology allows emerging adults to stay in contact with family members more easily, but may also cheat them of the benefits of actual in-person visits. Social media can be a source of poisonous envy and inadequacy or weaponized for bullying. Furthermore, due to the necessity for expensive higher education young adults may not have the means to reach financial freedom until their thirties. For vulnerable individuals, these anxieties and adverse experiences can sow the seeds of mental illness.

The Need for Mental Health Care Specific to Emerging Adult Needs

While adolescents are facing a harder time emerging into adulthood, emerging adults who are living with mental health issues have even more of a challenge. This is because mental health issues come with symptoms that disrupt life, making it even more difficult to learn the skillsets needed to become a fully functional adult. And, causing a need to rely upon others, like parental figures, for longer thus distorting the developmental flow of life for all in the family. Mental health treatment not only provides young adults with skills and coping mechanisms they need to manage symptoms of mental health and life’s challenges but strengthens the underlying self to become more resilient and to better navigate complex choices and risks.

Yellowbrick provides comprehensive and personalized mental health care for emerging adults and their families. Our values are Integrity, Excellence in Innovation, and Value through Outcome. The model encompasses the full arc of levels of care from Residential through Home Healthcare. The model combines the latest from neuroscience research, in-depth individual, group and family therapies, executive function and life-skill development and education and career guidance.

Find out more about our services built to help young adults living with mental health challenges today on our website.

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