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Transitions Through Adult Life is a summary of what is known about adults and how they develop. More than a book describing life' crises, it portrays the potential of life's transitions. It seeks to offer answers to the problems it analyzes. This book provides an overview of the various stages of adult life, what is typical in those stages, and how the church needs to be responsive to adults as they traverse the stages. The twenty-six chapters deal with young adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood and ...
Transitions Through Adult Life is a summary of what is known about adults and how they develop. More than a book describing life' crises, it portrays the potential of life's transitions. It seeks to offer answers to the problems it analyzes. This book provides an overview of the various stages of adult life, what is typical in those stages, and how the church needs to be responsive to adults as they traverse the stages. The twenty-six chapters deal with young adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood and most of the major events and challenges that one may encounter in those stages. Some of the specific topics include courtship, singleness, faith development, career, child-rearing, loss of loved ones, divorce, physical decline, etc. The chapters are succinct summaries of the significant dimensions of the topic calling upon existing research and the author's own keen powers of synthesis.
Coming on Strong: The Widening Perspective
SOMEWHERE, SOMETIME, it happens. It may be sudden, as it was for John W. A northern stranger sharing the hot summer sun with the people of the South, he stood in front of a house. Fresh from his first year of college, one thing occupied his mind: the selling of books. But the little girl's piercing yell blasted from his mind his salesman's fantasies. He never forgot her words; they became part of a story he told repeatedly. "There's a man in the front yard," she yelled. "A man." John actually looked around to see who the girl was talking about when the realization hit him, knocking him off his psychological balance. In the eyes of others, he had become a man. Now, he knew, he must become a man in his own eyes.
Other young adults enter adulthood less suddenly. Some "marker event" may signal their arrival: marriage, enlistment in the service, voting. But that point in time, if there is one, is only part of a process that normally takes place between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four and may go on longer.
The Atlas Age
By the time the young adult starts getting cues from others that his life's elevator has stopped at another floor, he has been receiving signals from his body, which has changed significantly from what it was in adolescence. Now it is a wonderful blend of balance, stability, and strength. At the top of their form from a physical standpoint, young adults are coordinated, graceful, and decidedly more comfortable with themselves than teenagers. Most are rid of the nuisances of adolescence: pimples, unpredictable sweating spells, clumsiness, and uncontrollable blushing. Those have given way to more mature physical and emotional responses.
The body's condition may be largely responsible for what is happening in the young adult's inner world. Unconsciously, the physical strength and stability will be turning out streams of living confidence. Consciously, it will produce a satisfying sense of self-acceptance. The endocrine glands have steadied their flow and have balanced up the various hormonal secretions. Psychologically, a corresponding sense of "getting it together" and "getting on" takes place. That adds up to excitement, particularly when coupled with newly acquired freedoms. It is not that anxiety and fear are absent, but young adults have a confidence unmatched in any other stage of life.
Getting into the Act
Radical idealism, activism, altruism are the words most used to characterize the young adult. With those traits they make their mark on history. Hitler mobilized unemployed young adults as storm troopers, firing their enthusiasm with his dynamic speeches. The Peace Corp is made up mostly of young adults, and so was the Hungarian peace movement. Young adults are associated with compassion and sacrificial serving as well as with change and revolt.
Their obvious social visibility shows up in religious movements. Take an imaginary snapshot of the contemporary evangelical movement and one might well ask, What could be accomplished without them? They join with Bill Bright, leader of Campus Crusade, who invites them to "come, help change the world." They sit at desks in seminaries and Bible colleges pondering their mission to the world. Many end up translating the Scriptures into all-but-forgotten dialects, offering help and hope to inner-city poor, or showing farmers in Central America how to get more crops from their small plots of ground.
History proves that societies, dictators, and church leaders have impulsively sought to control, contain, harness, and even manipulate and exploit the young adults of the world. Their social, political, and religious importance and impact would itself be a fascinating study. But the objective here is to understand the developmental traits that lie behind those contributions.
A Widening Perspective
Physical might is behind the activism, as has already been suggested. Young adults' bodies are ready; so are their wills. They sense their own capacities and so are ready for life's challenging tasks.
Social factors are also at work. The "I am capable" attitude is stimulated by their being welcomed into society at large. Permitted to go off to college or their own apartment, to marry, to vote, to buy alcoholic beverages, they are now finally "on their own."
Inner forces combine with new social roles. Young adults seem to face the world in a way that is distinct from their adolescent days. It is not that they were unexposed to world conditions during their teenage years. The difference is that their perception has changed.
Unlike young adults, teenagers look at the surrounding world in terms of themselves and their impact on others. The technical term for that perspective is narcissism. Not to be confused with selfishness, it refers to the way in which youths see most everything in relation to the self. Teens are in the process of forming a personal identity. Therefore the world is a house of mirrors one walks through to find out what one looks like and who one really is. (That may explain in part why actual mirrors are so integral to teen life.)
But young adults undergo a major change. Identity is pretty much intact. Less occupied with self, they turn their attention outward. The lens of their perception is decidedly wide angle--in fact, it gains a sort of infrared capacity to see things in new ways. It is not that the new vision is unrelated to the self. Rather, formerly the world was used to answer the question, Who am I? Now the world is seen with the new question, What is happening to me and to everyone else? Things that were there all along are now seemingly discovered. The military draft, nuclear warheads, and underprivileged people are now linked to their own welfare, future, responsibility, and relationship with God.
1. Gene Bocknek, The Young Adult, 105.
2. Ibid., 106.