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Emerging Adulthood

20-Somethings Are the New Adolescents

Older people have lamented how long it's taking our generation to grow up since, at least, the day after I graduated from college. Are we somehow different than previous generations, or do the traditional markers that once signaled adulthood no longer work?

A preview of this Sunday's New York Times Magazine says the latter, suggesting the time has come to do for 20-somethings what the early 20th century did for adolescents. Create a distinct developmental period.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychology professor at Clark University, has coined the period "emerging adulthood," which is a nicer way of saying extended adolescence. There used to be five milestones that were said to be passed on the way to adulthood: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had achieved all five by age 30; but in 2000, just under half of women and one-third of 30-year-old men had.

Find out more after the jump.

It may be true that more people live at home to finish school or launch careers, but they are doing it to arrive at a better adulthood. Maybe taking advantage of parents' hospitality — like those who live at home for the free rent and not to further themselves — is just a byproduct of an otherwise productive shift? Or maybe they benefit too? The whole point of emerging adulthood is to build in time to make mistakes.

The rise of adolescence forced the law, social institutions, health care, and education to adapt. It was responsible for the creation of junior high and middle schools, juvenile detention, and other programs that addressed the age group's needs. We're already seeing it begin for emerging adults with parents' health insurance being extended to at least 26 and up to 30 in the US. What else would you like to see for the under 30?

Source: Flickr User ollie e

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