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Matthew Nelson
Matthew Nelson

How To Be An Adult In Relationships By David Ri...

Very-early family formation clearly makes successful development in young adulthood difficult. Early parenthood is associated with a lower likelihood of marriage, a greater risk of divorce or separation, and less full-time work (Macmillan & Eliason, 2003). It hinders completion of high school and also continuation in post-secondary education. Even allowing that there is cultural variation in what defines successful young adulthood, it can hardly be advantageous in general for a young person to have less education, less stable marriages, and less employment earnings than her or his peers. Recent research supports the conclusion from earlier studies that very early family formation lowers the well-being of those mothers in young adulthood, for example by increasing the risk for substance misuse in young adulthood (Oesterle et al., 2011), and worsens outcomes for their children (Furstenberg, 2003; Haggstrom, Kanouse, & Morrison, 1986; Hardy, Astone, Brooks-Gunn, Shapiro, & Miller, 1998; Jones, Astone, Keyl, Kim, & Alexander, 1999; Upchurch, 1993). Children from poverty disproportionately join the early-family-formation group, while children from homes with adequate incomes are more likely to invest in completing post-secondary education (Furstenberg, 2003; Kerckhoff, 1993; Oesterle et al., 2010). Young people with lower levels of developmental relationships and opportunities in high school already are at greater risk of poorer concurrent and subsequent outcomes, and these differences are further exacerbated by the kinds of disparities in the opportunity structures of society that poverty and very early family formation reflect. There is of course no question that many youth from disadvantaged circumstances have other strengths, notably relationships with family and/or mentors, which help them to be resilient and succeed in their transition to young adulthood by common (majority culture) standards of success. However, structural issues such as racism, discrimination, and poverty clearly make it far more challenging. As Stanton-Salazar (2011) noted, majority-status and more affluent young people typically have more access to both socialization in mainstream expectations and the social capital of relationships with mentors who can not only teach effective strategies for social mobility and career development, but sometimes even pull levers to open doors for those young people. Therefore, developmental relationships with teachers and other adults have the potential to provide authentic empowerment of youth of color, working-class, and lower-income youth, by increasing their access to those kinds of relational influences that go beyond caring, to helping those young people stretch, expand, and become more savvy and powerful in the workings of the world. That is, such developmental relationships, useful for all youth, may be especially relevant for increasing the social capital that helps low-income students, students of color, and other historically marginalized young people have more options for dealing with these systemic limitations on their opportunities and making a successful transition to young adulthood (Scales, Pekel, Syvertsen, & Roehlkepartain, 2015).

How to be an Adult in Relationships by David Ri...

Our list of dimensions of successful young adulthood, originally developed in 2004, is quite similar to a later list developed by the Pathways Mapping Initiative at Harvard University, that named as desired outcomes young adults who were: effectively educated, embarked on or prepared for a productive career, physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy, active participants in civic life, and prepared for parenting (Schorr & Marchand, 2007). This effectively echoes our dimensions of physical health, psychological and emotional well-being, life skills, ethical behavior, healthy family and social relationships, educational attainment, constructive educational and occupational engagement, and civic engagement. That two independent efforts arrived at such similar places suggests a high degree of validity for this set of outcome dimensions defining successful young adulthood.

One can also critique our young adulthood success dimensions on the grounds that they represent examples merely of adjustment to dominant culture standards of individualism and materialism rather than of successful development as an agentic organism. Here too, we believe the dimensions themselves, albeit not always specific measures of them, are sufficiently general to encompass both adjustment to dominant culture norms, and carving out of developmentally agentic personal and sub-cultural paths that can also include involvement in efforts to change those dominant culture norms through civic and political engagement. Moreover, we explicitly name several dimensions that reflect connection and concern with others (e.g., healthy relationships, ethical behavior, civic engagement), and ground other dimensions (e.g., life skills, psychological and emotional well-being) within a context of relatedness and mutual obligation that would contradict a simple evaluation of these dimensions as individualistic.

Amid growing recognition that strong academic skills alone are not enough for young people to become successful adults, this comprehensive report offers wide-ranging evidence to show what young people need to develop from preschool to young adulthood to succeed in college and career, have healthy relationships, be engaged citizens, and make wise choices. It concludes that rich experiences combining action and reflection help children develop a set of critical skills, attitudes, and behaviors. And it suggests that policies should aim to ensure that all children have consistent, supportive relationships and an abundance of these developmental experiences through activities inside and outside of school.

A key problem the report identifies is that disadvantaged youth often face extra challenges. For example, they often have fewer in-school and out-of-school opportunities for consistent, positive developmental experiences and relationships and face significant opportunity gaps to developing the essential skills to become productive adults. 041b061a72


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