About the Network
Young adulthood is an overlooked era. Yet ages 18 to 30 is a time of profound change, when young adults acquire the skills and education they need for jobs and careers, when they establish households and relationships, begin families, and begin to contribute to society in meaningful ways. The Network on Transitions to Adulthood is examining this important developmental period, shedding new light on what it means to become an adult in America.
Established in 2000, the network spent its first five years documenting the significant demographic, economic, cultural, and sociological changes that have occurred in the past 30 years — publishing their findings in a seminal volume, On the Frontiers of Adulthood: Theory, Research, and Public Policy (University of Chicago Press). Where once youth moved nearly lockstep through the markers of adulthood — leaving home, going to school, finding a job, marrying, buying a house, and starting a family — today, the Network has found, that path is much more circuitous and steeped in ambiguity. Jobs are no longer secure, marriage is delayed, buying a house and gaining an education are expensive, relationships are more tenuous, and the connection to community more fractured. On the Frontiers lays out this changed landscape and explores how institutions that have typically aided the transition — such as schools and workplaces — might better adapt to address the needs of young people in the 21st century.
Although the implications of this changing landscape are important for all youth, it poses particular challenges for vulnerable populations, who may not have the familial supports or who may face other barriers to assuming adulthood — youth in the juvenile justice system, youth in special education, in foster care, or those with mental or physical health barriers. The network examines these groups in depth in their second volume, On Your Own without a Net (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press). Having documented the economic, demographic, and cultural changes that have occurred, the network is now looking more closely at the developmental implications of this new world for youth. The major program elements describe this new direction.