Concerning the new book, “Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church” (2)

March 23, 2014

What is meant by the term “emerging adults?” Basically, the authors of this book pose that a number of cultural and societal factors in the United States have lead to a new phase in the “American life role.”  No longer the simple movement from child to teenager/young adult to adult but now a new phase between teenager and adult which they call “emerging adult” – no longer a “child” but not yet an “adult.” They point to seven “macro social changes” that have brought this about:

– the dramatic growth of higher education with a significant increase beyond just the four-year college   to graduate school. This delays the age at which many are starting a career or entering the workplace;

– a significant increase of the age at which people are getting married – between 1950-2006 the median age of first marriage for women rose from 20.3 to 25.9 years old and for men from 22.8 to 27.5 years old with the sharpest increase for both taking place after 1970.

– “changes in the American and global economy that undermine stable, life-long careers and replace them instead with careers of lower security, more frequent job changes, and an ongoing need for new training and education;”

– the fact that today’s parents (aware of the above factors) are more willing to extend financial and other assistance to their children well into their 20’s and even early 30’s;

– the widespread availability of contraception and legal abortion that has lead to a culture in which sex is seen a something more recreational than relational with “no consequences that might force one to settle down and take on parental responsibilities;”

– the rise of popular postmodernism which holds “that “absolute truth” does not exist, that reason is only one parochial form of knowledge, that truth claims are typically masked assertions of power, that morality is relative, that nothing is universal, and that nobody can really know anything for certain;”

– America’s post-WW II prosperity – “Emerging adults today have grown up in a society awash in a sea of material products, media images, and purchased experiences that have inflated their expectations and sense of entitlement. It is all they have ever known and it is what they expect.”

As a result, “the transition to adulthood today is as a result more complex, disjointed, and confusing than it was in past decades” while “marked by a historically unparalleled freedom to roam, experiment, learn, move on, and try again.”

[Smith, Christian; Longest, Kyle; Hill, Jonathan; Christoffersen, Kari (2014-01-17). Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church. Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.]