Student Affairs

Utilizing the Theory of Emerging Adulthood to Support Student Success

Duration: 1 hour
Facilitator: Dr. Colleen Doyle
Price: $50.00

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Emerging adulthood begins at 18 years of age and stretches into the mid- to late- twenties (Arnett, 2015) and is characterized by five main psychological features, or ‘ages’.  Characteristics associated with emerging adulthood include identity exploration, instability, self-focusedness, a feeling of being in-between adolescence and adulthood, and an optimistic sense of possibilities (Arnett, 2004, p. 8).  As people remain in education longer, and delay marriage, the transition from childhood to adulthood is no longer as clear cut as it was in the past. 

 Emerging adulthood, as a stage of development, ranges from age 18 into the late 20s (Arnett, 2015) and, yet, universities often insist that students are adults.  Additionally, the theory tends to be missing from the canon of student affairs literature. As emerging adulthood is likely the first time that young people experience sufficient autonomy to direct their future life paths, academic advisors, student affairs practitioners and faculty can play a key role in supporting students' educational achievements. 

This webinar will introduce Arnett's theory of emerging adulthood, the 5 'ages' of emerging adulthood and some of the secondary research about emerging adulthood.  Attendees will be asked to reflect on their own understanding/theory of student development, their experiences from their home institution and reflect on challenges they face in supporting students from the perspective of emerging adulthood. 


  1. The workshop will open with participants asking to reflect on their views of adulthood
  2. There will be a brief lecture/discussion about Arnett's theory of emerging adulthood, the 5 ages of adulthood and discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of the theory
  3. Reflections on how utilizing the theory can inform policies and practices on campus
  4. Participants will be asked to reflect individually to craft one 'take home' message to share with their colleagues at their home campuses.

Learning outcomes:

Attendees will:

  • have an understanding of the theory of emerging adulthood and its unique contribution to developmental psychology and education
  • appreciate the applicability of emerging adulthood in international contexts;
  • develop an appreciation of how, understanding students as emerging adults, can lead to a deeper appreciation of how students interact with educational environments, their peers, their families and support staff in higher education;
  • reflect on their own understanding of university students and adulthood; and
  • Design a 'take home' message to share with their colleagues about emerging adulthood.

Who should attend:

This webinar will be beneficial to anyone in student affairs (division/department/unit) interested in the theory of emerging adulthood. It will also be beneficial to students of student affairs/higher education administration programs seeking to learn more about this theory for use in research and practice.


Dr. Colleen Doyle is the newly appointed Student Support Officer at Maynooth University in Ireland. Prior to her appointment she served as Student Adviser in the College of Engineering & Architecture at University College Dublin for nearly 20 years. She maintains a research agenda studying first year student transition, emerging adulthood, and student engagement. Active in the student affairs profession in Ireland, Colleen has served in various leadership roles including the Chair of the Confederation of Student Services in Ireland (now Student Affairs Ireland). Colleen has served on the editorial review board of two student affairs journals and currently serves on the board of the European Society for Research into Adult Development. Colleen holds a B.A. from Butler University, and M.A. in Irish Politics from University College Dublin, an M.Sc. in Educational Guidance & Counselling from Trinity College Dublin and a PhD in Education from University College Dublin.

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