Adolescent or Adult? The Challenges of Emerging Adulthood in Contemporary Hong Kong

Project: Research project

Project Details


Ensuring young people are steered on a path to healthy adulthood is regarded as one of the main goals of successful development during adolescence (Adams, 2000). However, due to profound social and economic changes, young people’s transition to adulthood is often delayed. The five traditional markers for entering adulthood, such as leaving the parental home, finishing university, getting a first job, marriage or becoming a parent (Arnett, 2004) are no longer applicable. Instead, the concept of Emerging Adulthood (EA) for young people aged 18-25 has been proposed as a new period of human development in various different countries (see for example Arnett, 2007; Buhl & Lanz, 2007; Nelson, Bager & Wu, 2004).

In Hong Kong, approximately 0.7 million people (around 10% of the total population) fall into the 18-25 age bracket each year (Census and Statistics Department [CSD], 2010) and are expected to make a successful transition to adult life (Catan, 2004). However, there is dissent among this group of young people, who have been labelled as “a lost generation”, “never growing up”, (Lam, 2007), “not currently in employment, education or training (NEETs), and “otaku boys and girls” (people who are always at home playing on the Internet). Are these people emerging adults or are they in crisis? What does adulthood mean to these emerging adults in Hong Kong? Surprisingly, there is very little local research about the concepts and experiences of young people making the transition to adulthood and the notion of EA in the Hong Kong context.

Using an exploratory, sequential mixed-methods research design, the purpose of this study is to examine EA among young people (aged 18-25) in Hong Kong. It comprises two parts. Firstly, a quantitative study using the Hong Kong Chinese Emerging Adulthood Scale (CEAS-HK), based on a 143-item questionnaire developed by Arnett (1997), will be administered to 2,000 young people (including both students and non- students) to explore the criteria for EA, its magnitude and the factors affecting it. Secondly, a qualitative study involving 10 focus groups will be conducted with 40 participants from the quantitative study to explore their subjective experiences of transitioning to adulthood. By using these two approaches, the study aims to gain a better understanding of EA in Hong Kong, which may help to develop a positive youth policy and design relevant services to help emerging adults cope with the challenges of contemporary Hong Kong.
Effective start/end date1/01/1330/06/16


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