Rado Lecture • Emerging Adulthood: Mental life, development and 21st century culture

May 1, 2018  8:00 pm
Karen Gilmore, MD

In 2000, Jeffrey Arnett, a developmental research psychologist, proposed a new phase of development which he called “emerging adulthood.” He delineated specific developmental challenges for this age group, centered on identity, role exploration, and subjective experience, and offered a theoretical frame that broadly linked his observations to changes in contemporary society. This proposal elicited an extraordinary response in the research community, generating hundreds of thousands of publications in the US and across the globe, a professional society and a journal dedicated to this age group. In contrast, the reaction among psychoanalysts has been both slow in coming and lukewarm. There are a number of explanations for this tepid response: adult development has historically attracted the interest of only a few psychoanalysts whose contributions to the literature peaked in the 1980s and 1990s; similarly, identity has never achieved full psychoanalytic status despite its introduction and elaboration by a world-renowned psychoanalyst. Dr. Gilmore argues that both adulthood and identity merit psychoanalytic legitimacy and theoretical elaboration as complex aspects of self-representation with deep personal meaning. Moreover, the broader idea of emerging adulthood begs to be studied, not only as a possible new phase of development but as a rich example of the dynamic interface of mental life, culture and developmental progression.


Dr Karen Gilmore is Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; training and supervising analyst, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.

The Sándor Radó Lecture is funded jointly by the APM and the Columbia University Psychoanalytic Center to honor the memory of Dr. Radó, the first Director of the Center.