Virginia – Recently released research data shows a trend to
delay responsibility in today’s young adults is not bringing them
Sociologist and Professor Alex Ross,
Ph.D., and alumnus Michael Wagner, Psy.D., from the Institute for
the Psychological Sciences (IPS), share their findings on happiness
among young adults in a chapter for the recent publication
“Sociology and Catholic Social Teaching: Contemporary Theory and Research.” (See bibliographic reference at the end of the article.)
IPS is a Catholic graduate school of psychology in Arlington,
Using the General Social
Survey for the years 1972-2010, the authors compare self-reported happiness
among groups of young adults ages 18 to 25 in
“birth cohorts” from the 1950s through the 1980s.
(Birth cohorts are groups of people who were born on
a certain day or in a particular period of time.)
During these nearly four decades,
young adults have displayed an increasing tendency to postpone their
entrance into the adult role. For example, the most recent
groups have remained longer in school and are less likely
to marry than the earlier cohorts.
Although some have suggested that this extended period of
self-focus and identity exploration is a beneficial development, a comparison
of this data with the self-reported happiness data from those
studied does not support this view.
The publication’s authors discuss how these research findings support
a Catholic understanding that the human person flourishes when he
accepts responsibility for others and commits himself to enduring social
The book is the
sixth in a series of publications by members of the
Society of Catholic Social Scientists that focuses on the application
of Catholic social thought to current social, political, economic, and
cultural issues. The publication also features a section
containing reflections by the authors on employing sociology in the
service of the Church.
bibliographic reference of the paper is: Ross, G. Alexander and Michael C. Wagner. (2012). A cohort
analysis of happiness among young adults. In Stephen R. Sharkey
(Ed.), Sociology and Catholic Social Teaching: Contemporary Theory and Research
(pp. 129-144). Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press.