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Note. The questionnaire asked participants to "Indicate whether you think each of the following must be achieved before a person can be considered an adult." N = 109 Whites, 122 African Americans, 96 Latinos, and 247 Asian Americans.

Note. The questionnaire asked participants to "Indicate whether you think each of the following must be achieved before a person can be considered an adult." N = 109 Whites, 122 African Americans, 96 Latinos, and 247 Asian Americans.

consistency was found among across ethnic groups in their conceptions of adulthood (Arnett, 2003). Whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans all agreed that self-sufficiency is at the heart of what it means to be an adult, specifically accepting responsibility for yourself, making independent decisions, and becoming financially independent. As Table 19.3 illustrates, in all four groups in this study these were the most widely favored criteria, on the questionnaire of markers of adulthood.

However, two ethnic differences are worth noting. One is that emerging adults who are Asian American tend to place more emphasis on obligations to others as part of becoming an adult than do Whites. On the questionnaire of possible markers of adulthood Asian American more often favored criteria such as "Make life-long commitments to others." In the interviews they more often mentioned obligations to others, especially to parents. An important part of many Asian cultural traditions is the idea offilial piety, meaning that children owe their parents duty, love, even reverence, not just during childhood but all their lives. Even growing up in the United States, many Asian American emerging adults have maintained some sense of filial piety. There is especially a feeling that they should take care of their parents when their parents reach old age. Consequently, becoming an adult may mean becoming capable of caring for one's parents. For example, a 22-year-old Chinese American woman said, "I think that as an adult I should be able to take care of my parents, which I'm not able to. They're taking care of me right now, so in that way, I'm not an adult yet." Thus the criterion "Make life-long commitments" appears to apply to this obligation to parents for Asian American emerging adults, as they were no more likely than those in other ethnic groups to endorse marriage or having a child as markers of adulthood and did not mention these as important markers of adulthood in the interviews.

The other notable ethnic difference was that African American emerging adults were more likely than emerging adults in any other group to state that they believed they had reached adulthood. In response to the question, "Do you think that you have reached adulthood?" a majority of African Americans (59%) and nearly half of Latinos (48%) responded "yes." A smaller proportion of Whites (36%) and Asian Americans (38%) responded "yes." A majority of Whites (60%) and Asian Americans (54%) responded "in some respects yes, in some respects no." Less than half of African Americans (34%) and Latinos (44%) gave this response. Relatively few persons in each group answered "no": 7% African Americans, 8% Latinos, 9% Asian Americans, and 4% Whites.

Why do African Americans, by their own evaluation, seem to reach adulthood earlier than Whites? Two themes in the interviews seemed to explain the difference. One is that African Americans are often called upon at a young age to take on household responsibilities. Because nearly 70% of African American children grow up in a home with a single mother, their mothers often need them to provide a great deal of help in order for the household to function. A 25-year-old man recalled, "Even as a child I had a lot of responsibilities that were adult responsibilities. I was the father figure for my brothers and sisters. I cooked the meals, I cleaned the house, I sent my brothers and sisters to school when I was 8-and 9-years-old." This 23-year-old man had a similar story, "I had to do a lot of the manly things of the house being that my father wasn't there. It was just me and my mother, and I felt like I was the man of the house. I did odd jobs, cut the grass, whatever it took to make the ends meet. Took care of my sisters and help raise them while she worked."

The other reason why African Americans often reach adulthood relatively early is that African American women are more likely than White women to have a child and become a single mother at a young age. We have already seen how having a child can propel young people suddenly into adulthood even when they are in their early twenties and already married. How much more abrupt must it be for a young woman who has a child in her teens, without a husband or partner to share the responsibilities? One 28-year-old woman, who had her first child at age 16, said that is when she became an adult: "When I had the kids, I felt like I was real responsible and I had to take care of somebody else." A 23-year-old woman said that she became an adult at "18, because of having a child and moving out on my own, and beginning to take care of my own responsibilities, and work and make my own money." For this 25-year-old woman, having her daughter when she was 19 led her to an abrupt realization of the urgency of becoming an adult: "When I had my daughter it really dawned on me, you know, 'You have to grow up now in order to take care of her.'"

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