A growing body of research knowledge is seeking to understand the unique strengths and vulnerabilities of young adulthood, including:

Responding to increasing awareness and concerns, the MIT Young Adult Development Project was created in 2005 to analyze, distill, and disseminate key findings about young adult development, findings that shed light on the unique strengths and dramatic challenges for this extraordinary period.

Defining young adulthood as the years between 18 and 25, the project focused on identifying research conclusions about which there is widespread agreement across disciplines and researchers, as well as practical relevance for universities, employers, parents, human service practitioners, and young adults themselves.

The Young Adult Development Project follows and complements a project directed by Rae Simpson, Ph.D., that analyzed and distilled research findings on adolescent development and the parenting of adolescents, summarized in the widely disseminated report, Raising Teens: A Synthesis of Research and a Foundation for Action.

Rae Simpson is available to give workshops, lectures, and other programs based on the project's findings. For further information, contact Rae.

Also, a PDF version of the PowerPoint presentation based on the project's findings can be downloaded by clicking here.

And a printer-friendly PDF of the text from the entire web site can be downloaded by clicking here.

The project investigators gathered and analyzed over several hundred books, journal articles, and other materials, interviewed leading neuroscientists, and attended major conferences on young adulthood, parenting of college students, and developments in neuroscience. Emphasis was placed on three areas of research:

Researchers and theorists whose work was analyzed included Jeffrey Arnett, Michael Basseches, Marcia Baxter Magolda, Mary Belenky et al., Benjamin S. Bloom et al., Uri Bronfenbrenner, Arthur Chickering, Michael Commons, Erik Erikson, Kurt Fischer, James Fowler, Carol Gilligan, Neil Howe & William Strauss, Robert Kegan, Karen S. Kitchener & Patricia M. King, Lawrence Kohlberg, Daniel Levinson, Jane Loevinger, William Perry, Jean Piaget, George Valliant, and Leo Vgotsky.

An interactive database was created as part of the project, including about 500 books and materials on young adult development (cognitive, social, emotional, and moral development), as well as brain development, the influence of colleges and universities, the role of parents, and other topics. The database is being maintained by the MIT Center for Work, Family & Personal Life. For a list of representative references in the database, click here. To access the database itself, contact the Center.

Principal grant support from July 2006 through June 2008 was received from the Lord Foundation of Massachusetts, with matching funding in spring 2007 from MIT's Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education.


The project is headed by Rae Simpson, Ph.D. Serving as co-Pl is William Kettyle, M.D., Director and Head of MIT Medical, and affiliated faculty in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology. For further information about the project, its findings, and its resources, contact Rae Simpson.

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