Adolescence in the 21st Century

by William Biersack

On Saturday, April 28th the Mount Saint Mary College Center for Adolescent Research and Development (CARD) hosted its third annual conference. Students, faculty, and guests from other institutions gathered in Hudson Hall to share their interests and their findings in adolescent psychology – topics ranging from the environment and Facebook, to the association made between pets and self-acceptance.

Psychology professor Dr. Rae Fallon delivered one of the notable presentations made during the conference. The paper she presented, “A Case Study of a Young Adult Prenatally Exposed to Crack Cocaine,” is the follow-up of an ongoing investigation, examining prenatal children put at risk by the mother’s consumption of crack cocaine.

This 20-year study concerns her work as an early interventionist; finding children with special needs and helping parents cope with the circumstances. A girl observed, whom Dr. Fallon referred to as “Hope,” was removed from her mother’s care 3 days after birth. Because of early intervention and rigorous physical therapy, the girl was able to make progress and excel in later years.

Dr. Fallon concluded that “Hope” will be graduating from college with honors. When asked about the presentation afterwards, freshman Emily Knapp commented, “I really wish she had more time…I found the topic really interesting.” Many at the conference agreed with this opinion, saying that the presentations could have taken more time than the 30 minutes allotted.

During the keynote address, Dr. Jeffrey Arnett of Clark University gave his presentation on “Emerging Adulthood: The Promise and Perils of a New Life Stage.” Dr. Arnett’s theory describes a new life stage of 5-10 years between adolescence and adulthood, which he has called “emerging adulthood.” He claims it no longer makes sense to assume that adolescence is followed by a stable young adulthood that lasts until middle age.

This change in social development is a result of modern social standards, such as the increased participation in higher education, people marrying and having children later in life than in the past, and an overall focus on maintaining youth. Dr. Arnett found five common features in emerging adulthood: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling “in between,” and a sense of having possibilities.

Dr. Arnett has written a book on the topic, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from Late Teens through the Twenties.

Academic Dean Iris Turkenkopf noted, the event was not just a conference on psychology, as professionals from many different disciplines made contributions to the knowledge shared. Dr. Turkenkopf said, “I think one of the most important things about CARD and about this conference is that it brings many people together for a common purpose.”