third decade of life, positive development, arrested development, emerging adulthood


There is a growing body of literature that suggests that the third decade of life is anything but a time to foster positive development. Indeed, emerging adulthood has been referred to as a time of arrested development during which young people avoid responsibilities that are thought to be typical of adulthood (Cote, 2000), and instead engage in behaviors they feel they will not be able to enjoy once they become adults (e.g., travel, exploration of substance use and sexual experience, living a carefree life-style; Ravert, 2009). Emerging adults have been referred to as "Generation Me" and are increasingly typified as narcissistic, self-absorbed, and unhappy (Twenge, 2006). In a book focusing on emerging adults, Smith (2011) characterized young people as generally lost in transition, a condition reflected in their moral confusion, risk behaviors, materialism, and disengagement. In sum, the stereotypical emerging adult is one who is experiencing a general failure to launch into the adult world.

Original Publication Citation

Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Nelson, L. J. (2017). Flourishing in emerging adulthood: An understudied approach to the third decade of life. In L. M. Padilla-Walker and L. J. Nelson (Eds.), Flourishing in emerging adulthood: Positive development during the third decade of life, pp. 3-13. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Oxford University Press




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor