Life for emerging adults is vastly different today than it was for their counterparts even a generation ago. Young people are waiting longer to marry, to have children, and to choose a career direction. As a result, they enjoy more freedom, opportunities, and personal growth than ever before. But the transition to adulthood is also more complex, disjointed, and confusing.
In Lost in Transition, Christian Smith and his collaborators draw on 230 in-depth interviews with a broad cross-section of emerging adults (ages 18-23) to investigate the difficulties young people face today, the underlying causes of those difficulties, and the consequences both for individuals and for American society as a whole. Rampant consumer capitalism, ongoing failures in education, hyper-individualism, postmodernist moral relativism, and other aspects of American culture are all contributing to the chaotic terrain that emerging adults must cross. Smith identifies five major problems facing very many young people today: confused moral reasoning, routine intoxication, materialistic life goals, regrettable sexual experiences, and disengagement from civic and political life. The trouble does not lie only with the emerging adults or their poor individual decisions but has much deeper roots in mainstream American culture--a culture which emerging adults have largely inherited rather than created. Older adults, Smith argues, must recognize that much of the responsibility for the pain and confusion young people face lies with them. Rejecting both sky-is-falling alarmism on the one hand and complacent disregard on the other, Smith suggests the need for what he calls "realistic concern"--and a reconsideration of our cultural priorities and practices--that will help emerging adults more skillfully engage unique challenges they face.
Even-handed, engagingly written, and based on comprehensive research, Lost in Transition brings much needed attention to the darker side of the transition to adulthood.
Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, Director of the Notre Dame Center for Social Research, Principal Investigator of the National Study of Youth and Religion, and Principal Investigator of the Science of Generosity Initiative. His books include Souls in Transition, Soul Searching, and Moral, Believing Animals.
This book provides an excellent overview of the challenges emerging adults are currently experiencing.
-Sociology of Religion
A balanced and thoroughly-researched examination of the dark side of emerging adulthood. Lost in Transition is public sociology at its finest, and deserves careful reading by anyone who seeks to understand emerging adults in America.
Emerging adulthood is not always a period of 'glory days,' when young people savor the freedom and fun of their youth. With this book, Smith and his colleagues illuminate the darker side of the years from the late teens through the early twenties. Through their adept use of rich, in-depth interviews with 18-23-year-olds, they show the many ways emerging adults struggle to find a meaningful place in the world. Crucially, their insights provide a convincing argument that the difficulties of emerging adults arise not from any inherent features of the age period, and still less from any moral failures on their part, but from the what their society provides - and fails to provide - as resources of meaning for them in their journey to adulthood. This book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand young Americans and help them thrive.
-Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
The authors are to be commended...Lost in Transition gets high marks for readability.
-Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Lost in Transition is a groundbreaking, compelling, and deeply necessary look at the challenges facing young people today. Not content to believe tired cliches about the enthusiasm of youth, Christian Smith and colleagues conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of today's emerging adults. The results, based on both quantitative analysis and detailed qualitative interviews, are shocking, revealing widespread moral relativism and precious little civic engagement. Lost in Transition takes a fair, clear-eyed look at this group, unafraid to reveal the serious problems facing young adults. We ignore these challenges at our peril. Lost in Transition is a must-read for parents and educators interested in understanding today's generation. A courageous, nuanced, deep-dive look at today's youth.
There is much to engage with in this book, and in my case it was worth the time to read, think about...I hope other sociologists will do the same.