Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's officially thirty-something...

The end of adolescence, that is.  I have used this as a laugh line in presentations, but notice people laugh a little uncomfortably anymore. And the anecdotal evidence for delayed maturity is piling up.

But parents shouldn't look at their basement-dwellers and wonder where they went wrong. The transition to adulthood is a long and winding road that can stretch into the early 30s, say some of the country's most prominent researchers, who spent two years analyzing data on what it means to be a grown-up in modern America.

"The world has changed … and it's just a lot more difficult to establish an independent household," said  Mary Waters, a sociology professor at Harvard University and one of the contributors to the recently released "Transition to Adulthood," a collaboration of the Brookings Institution and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had acquired certain traditional markers of maturity by age 30: leaving home, completing school, full-time employment, marriage and family. In 2005, the figure had plummeted to 27 and 39 percent, respectively, according to the MacArthur Research Network.

Given the economic realities, it can take up to age 34 to step into those adult roles, said Waters, citing the "ratcheting up of everything" – from academic requirements to the labor market to explain the lag. The provision in the new health care law extending coverage to children beyond age 22 is an example of government addressing this revised timetable. Compared to some other countries, the United States invests little in this demographic [More]

The change in health care will exacerbate this prolonged attachment, to be sure. This does not make it a bad idea, but certainly is one more drop of glue making this trend less than temporary. The real eye-popper from the same article is this, however:
It's not the script she envisioned, but the stigma has faded. The job site's online poll reports that 64 percent of 2009 college graduates are back in the nest.
That's not a lot of percent, fellow parents.  While it strikes me as largely a function of economics - few entry jobs even for college grads, parents who can afford to support them, health care costs, etc., other experts suggest surprising factors at work.

"Why does my young adolescent have such wandering attention?" "Why is my 23-year-old taking so long to act grown up?"
Many parents wrestle with these questions, and as a counselor working with these families so do I. Sometimes I speculate about one common cause that may connect the two: the age of electronic entertainment in which young people live.
Why do I call it "the age?" Consider the following news report. If a recent Nielsen survey (see NYT, 10/2/09, p. B4) is to be believed, "children ages 2 to 5 spent nearly 25 hours a week watching television, the highest figure on record. They spent an additional seven weekly hours watching DVD's, playing video games, and watching TiVo-style time-shifted television."
Of course, this doesn't take into account recreational time spent on the computer, adolescents much more active in this virtual world than children.
I believe such a high investment of time and energy in elecronic entertainment can have problematic effects on a young person's growth.  [More]
To substantiate this as more than a passing cultural curiosity, consider how Boomerang Offspring are now a staple of comedy, such as the comic strip Dustin.


And before you younger parents scoff at the idea this could be in your future, give yourself some room to be wrong.  About the only successful defense is to be simply unable to help grown children financially, as far as I can tell.

While we have seen middle generations supporting both older and younger cohorts - taking care of Grandpa and doing Junior's laundry - for some time, the new economics of retirement suggests this picture could be pretty discouraging looking ahead.  One thing seems certain however. The ideal of relatively enjoyable years when the kids are off to college and earnings peak, followed by active grandparenting and a slide into secure retirement won't be as common as it was for many.

This altered schedule for maturity will have effects here on the farm as well. If you stop and think about it, one reason we're all wringing our hands about average farmer age rising could be young people are not even thinking about settling into a career until 30-something.  That alone would skew the mean age upward, compared to starting right after high school.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When old age causes baby boomers to put their assets on the market this trend will reverse.