One day you’re a teenager hanging out with your friends, loving life, free from any obligations. And then suddenly, you’re a young adult with a lot of new responsibilities. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is quite an overwhelming experience, and one that creeps up on you without much warning. 

What can we define as ‘emerging adulthood’? This stage of a person’s life is commonly called the ’in between’ stage. In the 1990s, a psychologist named Jeffrey Jensen Arnett carried out a study in which he interviewed people aged between 18 and 29 years. What he found was that most of the participants were struggling with figuring out exactly who they were and finding it difficult to take on the responsibility that comes with being an adult. Emerging adults enter a phase of exploration related to figuring out what their strengths and likes are, as well as their values and beliefs. It is also a time in life when one can figure out what their limitations are and what they want to continue working on within themselves. 

At this age it is common for the person to start thinking about things like getting a stable job, finding a life partner, getting married, and so on. Romantic and sexual exploration is common in these years of life which helps the young adult figure out what they want from a partner, if they want one at all that is. The same can be said for friendships. Young adults will meet a lot of new people through education or employment, and each person they meet will shape their image of what qualities they want in a close friend or lover.

For some this stage in their lives can bring a lot of instability. Some move out of their childhood home, others decide to try different lines of work, and so on. Most of these choices are driven by the wish to become independent and capable of making their own life choices, free from their parent’s influence. Quite a lot of emerging adults’ comment that in this stage of their lives they are starting to take responsibility for themselves and their life choices, whilst still not feeling like a capable adult.

Arnett also found that most of the participants held very high standards for themselves and for what they aimed to achieve out of adulthood. He also found that there was a high level of optimism and an ‘I can do anything I decide to do’ mentality. Having so many different paths presented to you can be overwhelming and can make it difficult to decide which one to take. Anxiety related to the fear of making the wrong choice can be felt by some, as well as indecisiveness and hesitation to decide. Making mistakes and learning from them comes with the territory of being a young adult. Therefore, it is important for emerging adults to give themselves the time and space to experience different things so that they will be able to make a choice that will still bring them happiness in the years to come. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Lisa Laspina is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently working with Willingness. She is reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy. 


Munsey, C. (n.d.). Emerging adults: The in-between age. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from