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Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood Hardcover – September 1, 2011

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Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood + Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults + Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199828024
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199828029
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This book provides an excellent overview of the challenges emerging adults are currently experiencing." --Sociology of Religion

"A balanced and thoroughly-researched examination of the dark side of emerging adulthood. Lost in Transition is public sociology at its finest, and deserves careful reading by anyone who seeks to understand emerging adults in America." --Tim Clydesdale, author of The First Year Out

"Emerging adulthood is not always a period of 'glory days,' when young people savor the freedom and fun of their youth. With this book, Smith and his colleagues illuminate the darker side of the years from the late teens through the early twenties. Through their adept use of rich, in-depth interviews with 18-23-year-olds, they show the many ways emerging adults struggle to find a meaningful place in the world. Crucially, their insights provide a convincing argument that the difficulties of emerging adults arise not from any inherent features of the age period, and still less from any moral failures on their part, but from the what their society provides - and fails to provide - as resources of meaning for them in their journey to adulthood. This book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand young Americans and help them thrive." --Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, author of Emerging Adulthood

"The authors are to be commended...Lost in Transition gets high marks for readability."--Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"Lost in Transition is a groundbreaking, compelling, and deeply necessary look at the challenges facing young people today. Not content to believe tired clichés about the enthusiasm of youth, Christian Smith and colleagues conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of today's emerging adults. The results, based on both quantitative analysis and detailed qualitative interviews, are shocking, revealing widespread moral relativism and precious little civic engagement. Lost in Transition takes a fair, clear-eyed look at this group, unafraid to reveal the serious problems facing young adults. We ignore these challenges at our peril. Lost in Transition is a must-read for parents and educators interested in understanding today's generation. A courageous, nuanced, deep-dive look at today's youth." --Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me

"There is much to engage with in this book, and in my case it was worth the time to read, think about...I hope other sociologists will do the same." --Contemporary Sociology

About the Author

Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, Director of the Notre Dame Center for Social Research, Principal Investigator of the National Study of Youth and Religion, and Principal Investigator of the Science of Generosity Initiative. His books include Souls in Transition, Soul Searching, and Moral, Believing Animals.

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Customer Reviews

Great compilation and analysis of data.
Benjamin Szweda
If you are concerned about the emerging generation - this is a must read.
S. J. Young
I found this book very thought-provoking.
Paul Carmen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Peter J. Mundey on September 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Lost in Transition adroitly assesses the "dark side" of emerging adulthood through the lens of the sociological imagination. Smith and his co-authors provide excellent analysis of difficult topics that are generally given short shrift by scholars, including the pitfalls of habitual intoxication and "the shallow side of sexual liberation." Their use of interview data from the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) makes for enjoyable reading that is accessible to scholars and non-scholars alike. But there is more to this book than mere description of the "dark side" of emerging adulthood. The authors apply the sociological imagination to explain sociologically how certain social structures and social institutions perpetuate and encourage the "dark side." I'm using this text with great success in my introductory sociology class this semester and highly recommend it.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By GenMe on September 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Lost in Transition draws from both a quantitative survey and in-depth qualitative interviews to explore moral reasoning and civic engagement among today's youth. Their findings are shocking and make the book essential reading for student affairs professionals at universities. Parents of adolescents, high school teachers, youth ministers, and managers will also benefit from the insights here into how young people think. The book makes for a compelling read, with both statistics and interesting stories about real young people.

I found the verbatim quotes from young people fascinating. From the book: "Q: What about helping people in general? Are we as a society obligated to do something? A: I really don't think there're any good reasons, nope, nothing. Q: What if someone just wasn't interested in helping others? Would that be a problem or not? A: No, I don't see why that would be a problem. Q: And why is that? A: Because I mean is that really our duty, to help others? Is that what we're here for? I mean, they can help themselves. ... Q: So if someone asks for help, we don't have an obligation to them? A: Yeah, it's up to each individual, of course." Or: Q: Is it okay to break moral rules if it works to your advantage and you can get away with it? A: Break moral rules? I'm sorry, what do you mean by moral rules? I would have to say in some cases, yeah, it would be okay. It just, it would really depend what those rules were. It's on a case-by-case basis."

The study's design is a major strength -- it is clear immediately that it drew from a population diverse in background and experience, including those mired in drug use and those whose lives have been shaped by young parenthood.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Winston Smith on September 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important book. If we were a wise people, we would be holding conferences and symposia to find the best ways to address the trouble that this book shines a spotlight on. I teach young people, so nothing here was new to me, but it's useful to have the problems laid out clearly with supporting research.

The inability of most of our young people to think coherently, or in some cases to think at all, about moral issues is a problem that will manifest itself in ways large and small as time goes on. One would think that even moderately effective teaching in literature and history would have given young people better conceptual tools, but the trouble is now advanced enough that a great many teachers are in the same boat as these young people.

In the 1980s Alasdair MacIntyre published his magisterial "After Virtue" arguing that the idea of morality had been lost. People still used the vocabulary of morality, and this masked the fact that people had no clue what the old debates were about. "Lost in Transition" now provides the sociological data that allows us to observe for ourselves the thinking of those raised in that void. It's troubling.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on October 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The authors rely on exhaustive research and what it reveals is truly frightening.

Because the emerging adults in the US (those currently between ages 18-23) are lost, aimless, and incoherent. No kidding they form a generation lost in transition.

Above all, what is terrifying is the way the studies suggest the young adults lack a sense of right and wrong.

Most of these young adults argue--to the extent that this group is capable of making an actual point--that morality is somehow related to feelings. To individual situations. One said, "'situations, people change, society changes, culture changes...what's moral'" (p 29) apparently changes too.

So, are there any absolutes? "'Absolute is such a strong word" (p 29), hedged another.

So much for God, inalienable rights, and a passion for truth. Truth is also something that seemed to rely on feelings and 'situations'.

In fact, the authors found that "fully one in three (34 percent) of the emerging adults we interviewed said that they simply did not know what makes anything morally right or wrong. They had no idea about the basis of morality" (p 36).


Later chapters detail how these emerging adults try to find happiness, lost as they are without a compass or a clue. So they abuse drugs or alcohol--which are a "central part of emerging adult culture" (p 147), long to be as rich as the mass consumerism suggests is the way to true happiness, and generally make a mess of their sex lives.

There was once an American generation willing to fight and die to end slavery, another willing to fight and die to form this nation.

A fascinating but truly troubling book.
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