Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Young adults-Psychology., Adulthood-Psychological aspects, Developmental psychology, Identity (Psychology) in youth, Development, Identity development, Self cohesion


The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between achieving self cohesion and the transition into adulthood. Arnett (1998, 2000, 2004) has introduced a developmental stage which is neither adolescence nor adulthood, emerging adulthood, during which identity exploration is occurring. This exploration involves the questioning of one's worldviews, relationships and career path. As this discovery evolves one becomes more committed within these areas resulting with a cohesive self. Drawing from Erik Erikson's (1950, 1968) psychosocial stages of development and James Marcia's (2002) identity development model this thesis will explore identity development and the entrance into adulthood. This study sought to explore the several dimensions of identity: work, love, and worldviews and their relationship to perceived adulthood. A qualitative approach was chosen due to the wish to understand the participant's experience of how they understand adulthood, their identity and the possible relationship between the two. One-hundred thirty-three (133) participants responded to the anonymous open-ended survey with 73% reporting they were female, 88% identified as white and the mean age was 26.5 years. The findings of this study were consistent with the findings of Arnett's (2004) as the participants felt adulthood was defined by responsibility and independence rather then age or marriage. A large majority of the participants expressed feeling their worldviews and commitment to relationships and a career had evolved. This evolution was due to personal experiences as well as becoming independent. In addition, emerging and perceived adults viewed adulthood as a process of individualism. This researcher proposes individualism is not solely becoming what Marcia (2002) would refer to as identity achieved, but also achieving the virtue of love.




iv, 70 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 63-64)