Extending the Five Psychological Features of Emerging Adulthood into Established Adulthood

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Mehta et al. (Am Psychol 75:431–444, 2020) coined the term established adulthood to cover the age-range 30–45. Established adulthood comes after emerging adulthood (18–29), but before middle adulthood (45–65). There has been considerable theoretical and empirical work on emerging adulthood since Arnett (Am Psychol 55:469–480, 2000) proposed it, one important element being the five features model of psychological/phenomenological states accompanying emerging adulthood (Arnett Emerging adulthood: the winding road from the late teens through the twenties, Oxford University Press, 2004; Reifman et al. J Youth Dev 2:37, 2007a). Per the model, emerging adulthood is a time of (1) identity seeking, (2) open possibilities, (3) self-focus/responsibility for oneself, (4) stress/instability, and (5) feeling in-between adolescence and adulthood. Despite the richness of the five features approach, Mehta et al. did not extend it to established adulthood, focusing instead on practical challenges associated with careers, marriage/relationships, and parenting. The present theoretical review paper, therefore, extends and expands the five features model to established adulthood. Specifically, established adulthood should entail (1) solidifying identity, (2) somewhat diminishing sense of possibility in work/career and other domains, (3) focusing on others, (4) continuing stress, albeit in different domains from emerging adulthood, and (5) considering oneself an adult, although not necessarily fully wise. Although established adulthood emphasizes solidification, there remain aspirations and opportunities for new endeavors (e.g., becoming a grandparent or company head). Evidence from the literature supporting or not supporting these propositions is reviewed and future research directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Adult Development
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Ages 30–45
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Established adulthood
  • Five features model
  • Identity


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