Coming of Age in Rural America (page 2)

By and — Diversity in Education Special Edition Contributor
Updated on May 17, 2010

How You Can Help Young Adults in Rural Settings

  • Be a supportive role model to youth in your community. Pay attention to youth who may be socially isolated and lack supportive relationships.
  • Have conversations with youth about purpose. Develop a language to talk about meaningful life directions. Discuss examples of people who they think lead meaningful lives.
  • Ask youth, "How does this option for your future contribute to the community around you?" "What do you think you will love about doing this?"
  • Assist youth in learning how to manage the stress of everyday life. Show them how to access resources in the community. Talk with them about how to plan and work through everyday life situations.
  • Teach youth how to plan and how to be flexible. Help youth work through ways of regulating their emotions when they are faced with stressful situations.
  • Help youth identify their options and weigh the costs and benefits. Encourage them to go away to get the skills and experiences they need to succeed, and remind them that they can return. Rural areas benefit from residents who have returned with new credentials and skills


Crockett, J., Bingham. L., & Raymond, C. (2000). Anticipating adulthood: Expected timing of work and family transitions among rural youth. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 10, 151 - 172.

Developmental Science 7(3), 119-128.

Dolenc, B. J. (2009). Sense of purpose, proactive coping skills, and transition markers on perceived progress toward adulthood in young adults. Unpublished master's thesis, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.

Elder, G. H., & Conger, R. D. (2000). Children of the land: Adversity and success in rural America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Werner, E.E., & Smith, R.S. (1992). Overcoming the odds: High risk children from birth to adulthood. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Gandara, P., Gutierrez, D., & O'Hara, S. (2001). Planning for the future in rural and urban high schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 6, 73-93.

Schwarzer, R. & Knoll, N. (2003). Positive coping: Mastering demands and searching for meaning. In S. J. Lopez  & C. R. Snyder (Eds.),Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures(pp. 393 - 409). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Settersten, R. A., Jr., Furstenberg, F., Jr., & Rumbaut, R. G. (Eds.). (2005). On the frontier of adulthood: Theory,research, and public policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Sung, K. M., Puskar, K. R. & Sereika, S. (2006). Psychosocial factors and coping strategies of adolescents in a rural Pennsylvania high school.Public Health Nursing, 23, 523 - 530.

Brooke Dolenc is a master's candidate in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University. Her research interests include the transition to adulthood, mentoring, and positive youth development. In her doctoral studies, she will continue to investigate how community and personal characteristics can help prepare rural youth for adulthood.

Richard A. Settersten, Jr., Ph.D, is Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University. He is a member of the MacArthur Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood and Public Policy (

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