Approaching young adult health and medicine from a developmental perspective

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Young patients in their late teens are at risk for aging out of pediatric care. Becoming and remaining disconnected from the health care system contributes to high unmet need for services in the late teens and twenties. Lack of connection to a health care professional translates into increased health risk, risk that is particularly concentrated among young people with serious health conditions persisting from childhood and adolescence. In response, researchers recently have turned their attention to designing health care models specifically for transition-aged patients. The overarching goal of this article is to introduce the developmental perspective and argue that it is an essential lens for understanding health and health care needs of young people in their late teens and twenties. The history of adolescent medicine and the study of adolescence are reviewed to provide context for designing health care services for post-adolescents. Second, 2 theoretical propositions are introduced: (1) emerging adulthood is a distinct life stage (ages 18 to 25), and (2) emerging adults face a specific developmental task - recentering - becoming responsible for self and increasingly able to meet one's own needs. Last, a review of the literature from a developmental perspective offers unique insights into emerging adult health and health care needs. Specifically, (i) emerging adulthood is a period of good health and increasing well-being; (ii) psychiatric illness indirectly and directly poses significant risk to emerging adult health; and, (iii) restricted access to resources (ie, jobs, health care) compared to older age groups and variation in success recentering are distinct determinants of health in emerging adulthood. Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics. All rights reserved.

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Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews

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young adulthood, health, personal development