emerging adulthood, parent–child relationships, transition to adulthood, criteria for adulthood


The purpose of this study was (a) to identify the criteria parents of emerging adults consider necessary and important for their children to achieve adulthood, (b) to compare parents' criteria for adulthood with the criteria espoused by emerging adults, and (c) to examine how these criteria might differ on the basis of gender and the parent and gender of the child. Participants included 392 unmarried college students, ages 18–25, and at least 1 of their parents (271 fathers, 391 mothers). Results revealed that (a) as did their children, most parents did not yet view their children as adults, (b) there was disagreement between children and their parents in the emphasis they placed on various criteria for adulthood, (c) mothers and fathers did not always agree on the importance of various criteria, and (d) the gender of both the parent and the child played a role in the criteria parents deemed important for adulthood. Taken together, the findings suggest that parents and children view the transition to adulthood differently, which might have implications for the parent–child relationship during this period of development.

Original Publication Citation

Nelson, L. J., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Carroll, J. S., Madsen, S. D., Barry, C., & Badger, S.* (2007). “If you want me to treat you like an adult start acting like one!”-Comparing the Criteria for Adulthood Among Emerging Adults and Their Parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 665-674.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Family Psychology




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor