A scoping review of the factors that influence families’ ability or capacity to provide young people with emotional support over the transition to adulthood

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14 October 2021

Published journal: Frontiers in psychology


The traditional markers of adulthood in Western societies, such as the completion of education, establishing a career, moving out of the family home, marriage, and becoming a parent, tend to take place at a later age now, compared to in the mid to late twentieth century (Furstenberg, 2010). In a survey of conceptions of the transition to adulthood among different age groups in the United States, Arnett (2001) found that the following characteristics were most likely to be considered important markers of the transition to adulthood: “accepting responsibility for one’s actions, deciding on one’s beliefs and values, establishing an equal relationship with parents, and becoming financially independent” (p. 133). In recognition of the now lengthier nature of the transition to adulthood, Arnett’s (200020042007) theory of ‘emerging adulthood’ captures the ‘not a teenager, but not yet an adult’ status of individuals in their late teens and twenties, defining this period as one characterized by identity exploration, possibilities, instability, self-focus, and feeling ‘in-between.’ However, critics of Arnett’s theory have commented on limitations in its cross-cultural relevance (Hendry and Kloep, 2010Moreno, 2012), and its lack of recognition of the influence of social structures, including economic, social, and demographic factors, on the nature, timing, and ease of the individual’s transition to adulthood (Bynner, 2005Côté and Bynner, 2008).

Scoping Review

The Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) methodology for scoping reviews (Peters et al., 2020) and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR; Tricco et al., 2018) guided our scoping review methodology. The primary review question was: what factors influence families’ ability or capacity to provide young people with emotional support to equip them to manage the transition to adulthood?


A total of 277 studies were eligible for inclusion in the scoping review. Summary information about these studies is reported in Table 1. Thirty-six articles (13.0%) were Masters or doctoral dissertations. As Table 1 shows, the majority of the studies were conducted in the United States (66.8%). The majority were peer-reviewed quantitative studies (81.2%), with smaller quantities of qualitative studies (11.6%), mixed methods studies (4.3%), and literature reviews (2.5%) identified. The majority of the empirical research employed a cross-sectional design (65.7%). Young people’s parents were the most researched family members (60.0%). We identified 19 factors across the 277 studies that can influence the family’s ability or capacity to provide emotional support for young people over the transition to adulthood. Supplementary Table 2 presents the full list of articles organized by factor. Definitions of the factors and examples of study findings for each factor are reported in the following subsections.


Overall, our review suggests that future research examining the factors that enable or hinder the family in providing emotional support for young people over the transition to adulthood needs to take an approach that:

1. considers the intersectionality between the different factors influencing familial emotional support provision and between the different facets of family members’ and young people’s identities

2. moves beyond focusing on the parent–child relationship to focusing on other family relationships too, including young people’s relationships with their siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins

3. focuses on diverse samples in terms of sociodemographic characteristics, geographic locations, and family structures

4. uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to illuminate the factors (and mechanisms behind the impact of factors) that influence familial emotional support provision over the transition to adulthood

5. considers the wider context within which families are situated, including the influence of societal, political, economic, and cultural factors on the family’s ability or capacity to provide emotional support for young people

6. seeks to apply current knowledge to the design, implementation, and evaluation of interventions or programs for supporting families in providing emotional support for young people over the transition to adulthood.


Emily Stapley , Isabella Vaninieri , Hannah Merrick et all. Effect the family has on Providing  Young People With Emotional Support Over the Transition to Adulthood.

Published on line Frontiers in Psychology 14 Oct 2021. //doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.732899

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