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Emerging Adult Study

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Emerging Adult Study

  1. 1. An Investigation of the Influence of the Simpson University Culture on Selected Characteristics of Emerging Adulthood: An exploratory study Jillian Ducker and Melvin Shuster
  2. 2. Introduction • In the past fifty years, researchers have identified a number of demographic shifts occurring within industrialized societies that have resulted in changes in the nature of the developmental processes occurring in young adults. • Examples: Median age of marriage has increased from 21 to 25.5 for women and from 23 to 27.5 for men. Young people pursuing higher education has increased from 14% in 1940 to over 60% in 2006. Nelson, 2000 2
  3. 3. • This time of life, which was once viewed as a time to begin adult roles, has expanded in length and is now perceived as a time to explore life options. • It is distinguished by independence from social roles and from normative expectations • Love, work, and worldviews are areas in which individuals in this stage now frequently explore. Arnett, 2000 3
  4. 4. • Arnett (2000) labels this new, socially constructed time period, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, as emerging adulthood. • His theory posits that culture plays a strong role in influencing young peoples’ transition to adulthood.
  5. 5. • Arnett’s theory is supported by other researchers, such as Green, Wheatley, and Aldava (1992), who believe that the life course and its stages are largely constructions of social institutions, such as formal educational systems. 5
  6. 6. • Arnett (1994), surveyed students (n= 346) from a large public university. • He found that when asked if they felt they had reached adulthood, 63% of the students surveyed answered “in some respects yes, in some respects no”, while 27% responded yes and 10% no. • These findings, along with more recent work by Arnett (1997, 2001) are often referred to as indications of what is occurring in the broader culture. 6
  7. 7. • These results suggest that college students are uncertain about their status as adults. • Additionally, although the necessary markers for adulthood, according to sociologists and historians, have previously been completing education, marrying, or becoming a parent, Arnett’s study found that less than 20% of the participants believed these to be necessary for adulthood.
  8. 8. • Arnett (1994) found that the most important criteria for adulthood mentioned by those surveyed were individual and intangible criteria such as: – “Accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions.” – “Decide on beliefs and values independently of parents or other influences.” – “Establish a relationship with parents as an equal adult.” 8
  9. 9. • Because subcultures often possess different standards and norms than the broader culture, it is thought that the exploration activities and goals of the emerging adults within these subcultures may be different than those in the broader culture, as reported earlier for Arnett (1994, 1997, 2001). • Specifically, emerging adulthood may look different in cultures that provide more structure and roles to young people than the broader culture. 9
  10. 10. • Nelson (2003), studied emerging adults that were living within one such subculture, the culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) (n=484). • He found that the majority of LDS participants were participating in the structure, roles and responsibilities, provided by the culture. 10
  11. 11. • With regard to participants’ perceptions of adulthood, Nelson found that 24% of the respondents considered themselves adults, while 66% gave an ambiguous answer. • This finding suggests that the LDS population was similar to the majority population in regard to their perception of adulthood, but his results also revealed differences. 11
  12. 12. • Some of the differences he found between the general population and the LDS subculture included: - the criteria the LDS participants had for adulthood - the questioning of some identity related issues - the extent to which they engage in risk behaviors 12
  13. 13. • Given these results, it appears that culture may play a significant role in this period of life. • The present study was undertaken to explore this possible role that a specific subculture may play in the process of the emergence of individuals into young adulthood (n=155). 13
  14. 14. • This study explores possible influences by examining the level of student involvement, subjective criteria for adulthood, religious identity, and behavior, especially risk behavior, of the emerging adults at Simpson University. • The findings of this study are compared, where possible, with Nelson’s (2003) LDS culture and Arnett’s work (1994, 1997, 2001)on the general population. 14
  15. 15. Demographic (level of student involvement) Distinctions • Both theory and research suggest that a lack of structure, roles and responsibilities, is one of the defining cultural features, influencing emerging adulthood. • This may not be negative because it can offer opportunities for growth, change, and exploration. • Since the age of marriage and parenthood is being postponed, there are now various possibilities of life directions. 15
  16. 16. • Certain activities undertaken in any subculture communicate norms to the resident individuals which may influence the process of development and markers perceived as necessary for entrance into adult status. • These activities, in the subculture under study, Simpson University, include but are not limited to chapel, dorm Bible studies, and mission trips. 16
  17. 17. • These activities, which communicate the cultural norms, have been established in order to prepare Simpson students for the higher purpose as stated in the Simpson University’s mission statement: • "Simpson University is a Christ-centered educational community, developing men and women for a lifetime of Spirit-led intellectual, spiritual, and social growth, strengthening each to fulfill God's call to be an agent of transformation of life in all its fullness.” 17
  18. 18. • The question of student involvement was deemed important because in order for a culture to impact its members, the members must be engaged in the culturally sponsored activities. • Table one: summarizes the findings of the study in the area of student involvement.
  19. 19. Demographic Results Table One: Student involvement questions How often do you attend the Simpson University Chapel time? 90 to 100 % 43% 75% 39% 50% 8.5% Almost ever 9.1% How many short- term mission’s trips have you been on while enrolled at Simpson University? Three to Five 2.5% Two 7.1% One 16.2% Zero 74% How many weekly on-campus Bible studies do you participate in? Three 1% Two 2.6% One 28.6% Zero 68.2% 19
  20. 20. Table One: Student involvement questions (continued) 20 Are you now, or have you ever been involved in student government in any way? Yes 28.6% No 71.4% Are you now or have you ever been a member of an on- campus club? Yes 46.8% No 53.2% Do you have a paid job on-campus? Yes 52.6% No 47.4%
  21. 21. Table One: Student involvement questions (continued) Are you now or have you ever been involved in any college sponsored sport? Yes 24% No 76% Are you now or have you ever been involved in any college sponsored Fine Arts activities, such as theatrical performances? Yes 10.4% No 89.6% How many hours each week do you study? 21+/16 to 20 5.2%/14.4% 11 to 15 32% 6 to 10 35.3% 0 to 5 13.1% 21
  22. 22. • It is not possible from the results to tell if these involvement figures represent the same students involved in multiple activities or different students interacting in different ways with the Simpson culture. • The findings suggest though that students are not fully availing themselves of the structure or opportunities for different roles and responsibilities that are provided by the Simpson culture. 22
  23. 23. • Assuming this is true, it may be difficult for Simpson University to fully impact the students in general or more specifically in the area of their emerging adulthood. • It is interesting to note that the highest level of student activity was with an on-campus job. 23
  24. 24. • With the exception of the Chapel time, this finding contrasts with that of Nelson (2003) who reported that the LDS students are highly involved. – For males, 86% advanced to priesthood, 62% had attended the temple, and 90% had served on a mission. – For females, 97% entered the relief society, 6% had attended the temple, and 48% had served a mission. 24
  25. 25. • Although the types of activities recorded by Nelson (2003) are not the same as those investigated in the present study, Nelson’s findings do document a higher level of involvement in certain culturally sponsored activities, which could result in the LDS culture being more influential in the lives of the students.
  26. 26. • None of Arnett’s (2000)studies investigated activities similar to those looked at in the present study. t 26
  27. 27. Further research should focus on the following questions: 1) Are just a few students involved in a large number of activities or are many students just pursuing different paths? 2) What connections are being made between the Simpson mission statement and the activities provided (so as to encourage more student involvement)? 3) Why are students not more involved? 4) What are students doing with their time? 5) What cultural norms are being communicated to students by way of their on-campus jobs? 27
  28. 28. Subjective Distinctions 28 • Past research suggests that the majority of emerging adults are uncertain in their self perception concerning adulthood. • Emerging adults in the broader American culture have developed more individualized ideas on the criteria needed for adulthood such as accepting responsibility for one’s actions, achieving financial independence, and becoming independent decision makers. Arnett, 2000
  29. 29. 29 • Compared to the traditional criteria of the past, such as marriage, or completing an education, these new markers to adulthood emphasize individualism and self-sufficiency. • In contrast to the broader culture, Simpson University is more community oriented. Examples include: – Students are required to live on campus – Mandatory chapel
  30. 30. Subjective Results • Two questions were asked to determine students’ current perceptions of their adulthood. • Table two summarizes the responses to the first question, “Do you think that you have reached adulthood?” for the three groups, Simpson, LDS and the general population. The results are listed from most to least “yes” responses. 30
  31. 31. Table Two: Student responses to the question of adult perception Percentages of responding Yes (Adult), No (not adult) and Yes/no (ambiguously) Yes No Yes/No Arnett (2001) 46.0% 4.0% 50.0% Simpson (2008) 38.5% 2.6% 58.8% Arnett (1994) 27.0% 10.0% 63.0% Nelson (2003) 24.0% 10.0% 66.0%
  32. 32. • Care must be taken not to draw too much from these results, but it is interesting to note that the percentage of Simpson students responding “yes” falls between the general population (the least structure) and the LDS population (the most structure).
  33. 33. • To a related question asked later in the survey: “Do you consider yourself to be an adolescent or an adult?” Simpson students’ responded: - 2.6% said adolescent - 50.9% said adult - 46.4% said “in some ways an adolescent, in some ways an adult” 33
  34. 34. • Responses to both questions suggest that there is a sense of un- decidedness in students’ perception of adulthood. • One question that arose: why was there such a shift in the percentage of respondents from “yes and no” on the first question to “yes” on the second? – Priming?
  35. 35. • In addition to the two questions concerning adult status perception, students were also asked to identity characteristics that they thought were necessary for adulthood. 35
  36. 36. • Table two presents a summary of the top ten (out of 43 possible choices) responses participants from all three groups gave to the question “indicate whether or not you think the item is necessary for being an adult.” The table lists the perceived criteria from most to least.
  37. 37. Table 3: Perceived necessary markers of adulthood (Percent of the respondents choosing the marker) 37 Criteria Simpson LDS General Responsibility for actions 98.7% 96.1% 92% Choose beliefs independently 92.2% 89.3% 80% Equality with parents 83.2% 78.3% 72% Financially independent 82.9% 77.9% 66% Develop concern for others 81.7% 84.9% N/A Avoid drunk driving and crimes 80% 79.1% 70% Control of emotions 78% 79.5% 54% Avoid illegal drugs 71.3% 68.4% 44% For a man, capable of keeping family safe 68.4% 76.4% 61% Not emotionally dependent on parents’ approval 68.7% 27.9% 14% For a man, capable of running a household 67.8% 75.6% 55% For a woman, capable of running a household 66.2% 77.5% 55%
  38. 38. Table 4: Perceived Necessary Markers For Adulthood: Traditional Markers (Percent of the respondents choosing the marker) Criteria Simpson LDS General Settled into a long-term career 27% 22% 28% Finished with education 21% 14% 18% Be married 19% 16% 15% Have at least one child 12% 8% 12% 38
  39. 39. Analysis • Table thee suggests that independence and responsibility is of high importance for being considered an adult. • There also appears to be an interest in defining themselves apart from their parents. • The Simpson results coincided well with both the LDS population and the general population. 39
  40. 40. • These findings have implications for the Simpson University culture. Even though the university does not explicitly mention adulthood as a goal, it seems reasonable to think that given the mission statements mentioned earlier, a worthwhile goal would be to promote a sense of adult perception in the minds of the students. 40
  41. 41. Further research should focus on the following questions: 1. Does priming play a role in how the participants answer? 2. How does the students’ adult status perception change with length of time in the Simpson culture? 3. How do changes in demographic factors influence students adult status perception? 4. What factors within the Simpson culture influence students’ adult status perception? 5. How does involvement in Simpson sponsored activities influence adult status perception? 41
  42. 42. Identity Distinctions • Another important aspect of the emerging adulthood stage of life is that it provides the individual with the opportunity for identity explorations in – Love – Work – Worldviews Arnett, 2000 42
  43. 43. • In emerging adulthood, explorations in love become more intimate and serious as opposed to relationships in adolescence. • Similarly, work experiences become more focused. • Studies have shown that changes in worldviews is the central part of emerging adulthood. Arnett, 2000 43
  44. 44. • Identity formation involves trying out different life possibilities and gradually moving toward making lasting decisions. • Research has shown that changes in worldviews and religious beliefs are a central aspect of development during emerging adulthood, often leading young people to question and change their previously held beliefs. Arnett, 2000 44
  45. 45. Religious Identity Results Table 5: Students’ Religious Identity (Largest response categories) • How long have you been a Christian: -since a small child: 59% • Do you consider yourself a born again Christian? -yes: 87%, no:13% • How many friends are Christians? -most: 55%; all: 17% • Suppose someone wanted to know all about you. How important would it be for them to know that you are a Christian? - very important: 72% 45
  46. 46. Table 5: Students’ Religious Identity (Largest response categories) (continued) • How important is it for you to have friends who have the same religious background as you? - at least fairly important: 44.4% • How important for you to date people who are Christians? - very important: 71.1% • How important is it for you to attend religious services regularly? - very important: 35.5%: quite important: 43.9% • How certain are you about your religious beliefs? - very certain: 55.5%: quite certain: 37.4% 46
  47. 47. Table 5: Students’ Religious Identity (Largest response categories) (continued) • How important is religious faith in your daily life? - very important: 60.6% • How often do you read the Bible independent of a class assignment? - a couple times a week: 40.6% • To what extent do you believe that God watches over you and guides your life? - strongly believe this: 89% 47
  48. 48. • It appears from the responses, that having a Christian identity is very important to the Simpson students’ surveyed. • What is unclear from these results is the extent to which students religious identity impacts their sense of adulthood. 48
  49. 49. • It must be stated that these findings do not necessarily demonstrate that the Simpson University culture is influencing students’ faith. Individuals could have entered into the Simpson culture with these beliefs or been influenced by the broader church culture. 49
  50. 50. • A comparison with Nelson’s (2003) findings, on the question “How certain are you of your beliefs”, Nelson reports a mean score of 3.85 while the corresponding response for the Simpson students was 3.47. • The scale was 1 to 4, with a 4 indicating “very certain” and a 1 indicating “ not at all certain”.
  51. 51. • Table 5 provides a comparison of the findings of the present study with that of Arnett (2002) on four questions dealing with religious identity. Arnett, 2002 51
  52. 52. Table 5: A comparison of religious identity All percentages are for the responses, very plus quite Simpson Arnett (2002) Imp. of attn. religious service 79% 27% Imp. of religious faith 93% 52% Certain about religious beliefs 93% 71% Believe God watches over you 97% 74%
  53. 53. Further research should focus on the following questions: 1.Are students coming to Simpson with strong religious beliefs. 2.Have students explored their religious beliefs? 3.How is the Simpson culture influencing students religious beliefs? 4.What is the relationship between students’ religious identity and their perception of their adult status? 5. What is the relationship between religious beliefs and identity exploration? 53
  54. 54. Behavioral Distinctions • Becoming an adult may mean not only taking on new social roles, but also changing one’s behavior. • The literature on risk behavior suggest that, the prevalence of certain risk behaviors peak between the ages of 18-25. Arnett, 2000 54
  55. 55. • Research on emerging adulthood suggests that this period of life is characterized by exploration in the form of certain risk behaviors such as: - binge drinking -substance abuse -unprotected sex Arnett, 1992 55
  56. 56. • Possible reasons for risk behavior: - part of their identity explorations - sensation seeking - it is easier to pursue novel experiences because they are not monitored by parents - it may be the last time before marriage and parenting to pursue such experiences 56
  57. 57. • The cultural or religious beliefs and standards, of some subcultures may ameliorate some of these behaviors such as the LDS community. • Nelson (2003) found that because of the firm rules against engaging in such risk behaviors, the majority of the participants reported not engaging in any of these behaviors while Arnett’s participants from the majority culture showed a much higher percentage of those engaging in risk behaviors. 57
  58. 58. • According to the Student Handbook, Simpson University prohibits alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, and sexual intimacy before marriage. 58
  59. 59. Statement Very True Somewhat True Not True Avoid illegal drugs 90.1% 0.7% 9% Avoid petty crimes 84% 7% 8.6% Avoid becoming drunk 77% 15% 8% Avoid Profanity 47% 43% 10% Drive safely 42.6% 50.7% 6.8% Have had sexual intercourse Yes: 31.8% Premarital sex: 26% No: 68.2% Table 6: Attitude toward a specific risk behavior that currently applies to you Percentages of students responding in each category 59
  60. 60. • The results indicate that there is a range of avoidance behaviors from avoiding illegal drugs (90.1%) to avoiding profanity (47%). • It is also interesting to note that 26% (1 in 4) of the non-married respondents are currently or have been sexually active. 60
  61. 61. • All of the questions asked if the participants were currently engaged in these behaviors except for the sexual intercourse question. 61
  62. 62. The question pertaining to sexual intercourse was asked “Have had sexual intercourse”, therefore it is difficult to determine whether the participants are currently sexually active or if they were prior to attending Simpson University. 62
  63. 63. • A question that arises then is, why are students strongly avoiding illegal drugs, crimes, and becoming drunk but are more likely to engage in premarital sex? 63
  64. 64. • The risk behaviors displayed by the participants may provide the greatest insight into the role that the culture plays on the students. • Nelson (2003) found that his participants were even less likely to engage in risky behavior: – 95% avoid becoming drunk – 96% avoid illegal drugs – 94% have not engaged in premarital sex 64
  65. 65. • Arnett (1994), when surveying the general culture, did not include in his survey the questions about what types of behavior the participants are engaging in. • However, he did measure what the participants believed were important in becoming an adult. • Table 7 presents a summary comparison of Simpson’s results along with Nelson (2003) and Arnett (1994). 65
  66. 66. Table 7: Percentage Indicating That a Criterion Is Necessary for Adulthood Avoid Becoming Drunk Avoid Illegal Drugs Have One Sexual Partner Drive Safely Avoid Petty Crimes Avoid Use of Profanity Arnett (General) 29% 44% 32% * 26% 70% 16% Nelson (LDS) 62% 68% 3.7%** 42% 79% 52% Simpson 63% 71% 6%** 34% 81% 45% * The general population was asked, “Having only one sex partner.” ** The LDS and Simpson population was asked, “Have had sexual intercourse.” 66
  67. 67. Analysis of Table 5 • Compared with the general population, it appears that the majority of the Simpson and LDS populations view avoiding negative behavior as necessary to becoming an adult. • The results were similar for all populations in the area of avoiding petty crimes - all seemed to view this as an important factor in becoming an adult. 67
  68. 68. • The largest difference in responses was that the majority of participants in the Simpson (63%)and LDS (62%) culture view avoiding becoming drunk as opposed to the general culture which only had 29% of its participants believe this to be an important criteria to becoming an adult. 68
  69. 69. • Further research should focus on the following questions: 1.Are the students that are involved in each of these activities the same students? 2. Why are students avoiding risky behaviors? Is this avoidance due to an internal sense of right and wrong or are they simply responding to the peer pressure in their culture? 69
  70. 70. Summary • For the four categories studied, (student involvement, subjective distinctions, religious identity distinctions and behavioral distinctions) religious identity and behavior distinctions appear to be most associated with the Simpson cultural norms. • In the Simpson culture as well as the two reference groups, the majority of the participants demonstrated ambiguity in the perception of their 70
  71. 71. • All three studies demonstrated that emerging adults are viewing markers of adulthood as more individual and intangible than the previous markers of marriage, becoming a parent, and finishing education. 71
  72. 72. • A clearer picture of how the Simpson culture is influencing the students' perceptions and behavior will require more in-depth work such as identifying student perceptions prior to attending Simpson, at periodic times during their time here, and at times following graduation. t 72