Staff Editorial: Arrested development or emerging adulthood?

What is the deal with 20-somethings these days? That’s the question that has caught our attention since Robin Henig’s article in The New York Times Magazine two weeks ago.

The transition to what we would generally call “adulthood” is happening later than ever. Why are we taking our sweet time to grow up? This is not the case with everyone, but there are enough people falling into this category to make it a phenomenon.

In the past, people moved from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, but today there is a new phase along the way.

Generally, sociologists define adulthood with five milestones: finishing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, getting married and having a child. The idea is that by age 30, you were considered an “adult” and have accomplished these five things.

More and more, however, young people are reaching the end of their 20s without getting married and settling into careers. According to The New York Times, marriage is occurring later than ever, and 40 percent of young adults move back home with their parents at least once.

So, the question remains: Is this occurring due to temporary social and economic forces or is it a new stage of human development?

Henig is correct when she discusses how the poor economy has drawn attention to certain trends in the workforce rather than develop a new generational identity overnight. Many young adults already had plans to move back home with their parents and postpone marriage before the recession even started.

With this in mind, it’s important to be aware that there is a difference between taking a longer time to grow up and completely disregarding adulthood in order to stay a “kid.” Wanting to put off commitments so you can enjoy the pleasures of irresponsibility is not an excuse to pause personal growth.

Taking a longer time to grow up is a different story; it gives us more time to choose our life paths and contemplate our goals. By taking time to peruse your options in life, you are not delaying your entrance into adulthood- instead, you are preparing for what is to come.

What we are witnessing is the emergence of a new life stage to which our society must adjust. We need to be aware of what the 20s are- not “adulthood,” but rather an “emerging adulthood.”

By postponing adulthood and exploring, we have the ability to find out who we truly are, and this is indeed be something worth waiting for. After all, age doesn’t define maturity.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

September 1, 2010


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