I’ve had my share of embarrassing moments. One of them took place a few years back when I entered a tollbooth on a freeway without any money. Ugh. I just wanted to make progress and that silly booth stopped me. On one occasion, the tollbooth became a roadblock. It didn’t have what it took to pass through. I had to borrow the money from the guy behind me. What a humiliating moment for me.
For many students, this is a picture of life. They can’t seem to progress through adolescence. They can’t or won’t pay the price to grow up. The tollbooth becomes a roadblock. I know I have mentioned this before, but I am picking up new evidence that his is a worldwide phenomenon. Listen to the proof:
— In one survey, students themselves indicated the mark of adult responsibility and the exit from adolescence is: having my first child. Americans aren’t doing this until 27.5 years old.
— Originally, adolescence spanned from 12-18. In 2002, the National Academy of Science redefined this season as the period extending from puberty at approximately 12 to age 30.
— The MacArthur Foundation has extended it further, funding a major research project that argued the transition into adulthood doesn’t occur until 34 years old.
— The phenomenon is worse internationally. Kids stay home until their 30s and are called KIPPERS, Boomerang Kids, Freeters and Nesthockers. They don’t want to leave mom.
The Postponed Generation
Here is the problem. The term adolescence was created and published just over a century ago, by psychologist G. Stanley Hall. The word is taken from the Latin “adolescere” meaning: “to grow up.” It was meant to be a “doorway” from childhood into adulthood.
Today, it’s become a period of exploration and experimentation, trying to find one’s identity. This is very normal and natural, but there’s a difference between doing it at 16 and doing it at 32.
There is a new demographic group that’s expanded worldwide. The years between eighteen and twenty-five have become a distinct life stage—a strange, transitional “no man’s land” between adolescence and adulthood in which young people stall for a few extra years, putting off adult responsibility. Most of these are not bad kids or troubled kids or even stupid kids. They just don’t see the need to grow up because life is working for them just fine right now. They seem to enjoy a season of exploration without the demands of paying bills, or providing for someone else.
In my next blog post, I plan to share nine reasons why I think this is happening. But for now, I want to hear from you. What do you think is the cause of the postponed entrance into adulthood?