Exploration of the dimensions of emerging adults' perceptions of the transition to adulthood

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


Emerging adulthood, Transition ot adulthood, Adulthood, Adolescence, Lifespan development, Human development

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Using an exploratory factor analysis, this study empirically explored the dimensionality of the criteria for adulthood questionnaire developed by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (2003). Grounded in sociological, psychological, and anthropological theory, Arnett (1994) created the instrument to explore emerging adults' perceptions of characteristics that are necessary for a person to be considered an adult. In a later study, Arnett (2003) grouped the items into seven theoretically-derived subscales meant to represent conceptual facets of emerging adulthood: Independence, Interdependence, Role Transitions, Norm Compliance, Biological Transitions, Chronological Transitions, and Family Capacities. Subscale scores offer a profile of what each participant views as the most important criteria in signifying the conception of adulthood, but the subscales have not been empirically confirmed on an American sample as being independent factors, although research continues to be conducted using the instrument and subscales. The current study empirically identified an alternate factor structure underlying the instrument among a sample of 365 emerging adults, aged 18 to 28, who were enrolled in higher education. Findings yielded five related but distinct factors to represent constructs underlying the criteria for adulthood: Family Capacities, Long-term Commitments, Norm Compliance, Physiological/Chronological Transitions, and Financial Independence . Limitations and implications of the findings are discussed, and suggested areas for future research are outlined.


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