November 1, 2000
The “twenty-something” years of young adulthood are increasingly recognized as critical but puzzling. These are years of searching, when most people make formative life decisions, for good or for ill. Looking for place and purpose in a changing world and asking new questions of meaning and faith, young adults re-examine their earlier beliefs and assumptions as they encounter a bewildering array of new experiences and complex choices. Too many wander through this challenging time alone, without the presence of mentoring voices.
Building on the foundation she established in her classic work, The Critical Years, Sharon Daloz Parks urges thoughtful adults to assume responsibility for providing strategic mentorship during this important decade in life. She reveals also, however, the ways young adults are influenced not only by individual mentors but also by mentoring environments.
Furthermore, Parks asserts, the wider culture as a whole plays a mentoring role in the formation of each new generation of young adults, shaping the future of the culture itself. Through exploring young adult meaning-making and faith, and particularly the power of adult mentors to determine their quality, we may more fully recognize how young adults and their mentors can feel the power and promise of cultural renewal.
Parks draws on her own research and insights from developmental psychology, religion, theology, leadership, and ethics to examine the underlying developmental patterns of this unique time of life – when one is no longer an adolescent and yet not quite fully adult. She’s shares a wealth of practical experience gained from thirty years of working with young adults. Through thought-provoking examples from across a broad range of contexts, professionals, educators, community leaders, supervisors, and parents will discover the many ways they can responsibly serve as guides and mentors to young adults, thus making a vital investment in the promise of the twenty-first century.
Sharon Daloz Parks is an associate director and member of the faculty at the Whidbey Institute, near Seattle. She has held faculty and senior research positions at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Business School, the Kennedy School of Government, and the Weston School of Theology. She is coauthor of Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World; To Act Justly, Love Tenderly, Walk Humbly; and Can Ethics Be Taught?