What makes an adult? Examining descriptions from adolescents of divorce

Denyelle Baete Kenyon, Lela A. Rankin, Susan Silverberg Koerner, Renée Peltz Dennison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The present study examined conceptions of "what makes an adult" within a sample of adolescents (13-19 years) from divorced families. Arnett's (2003) seven criteria-of-adulthood categories (independence, interdependence, role transitions, norm compliance, biological transitions, chronological transitions, and family capacities) were used as an initial framework for grouping open-ended written responses, while inductive content analysis was employed to analyze all other responses. Although the majority of responses (N=568) fit into Arnett's categories, 35.2% of responses were coded into eleven newly created categories (e.g., knowledge/wisdom, role model/leader). The present study confirmed that independence qualities are believed to be most important. However, role transitions (e.g., marriage) were considered more significant than in previous research. The qualitative findings and their specific pattern should inform existing quantitative measures of adulthood criteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)813-823
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Adulthood
  • Divorce
  • Perceptions
  • Qualitative method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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