Skip to comments.More 20-somethings depending on parents again
Posted on 05/02/2005 8:31:54 AM PDT by qam1
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (KRT) - Signs of the new normal for young adults seem to be piling up like ripe sweat socks in the bedroom of your 20-something son down the hall.
We used to dismiss it as a "slacker" thing - an odd fad, we thought, of a generation that appeared content to take its sweet time before leaving the nest, finishing college, getting married and making commitments their parents began considering at 18.
Researchers now prefer the term "adultescence," and they're not kidding. The life stage between the late teens and late 20s is undergoing what many describe as a permanent transformation brought on by economic, educational and even biological forces, all irreversible.
"It has happened quietly, and it's here to stay," said David Morrison, president of Twentysomething Inc., a market research firm that has tracked the lifestyles of young adults for 15 years. "The stigma of depending on your parents is gone."
Consider some of the factors: Grinding college debt. Spiraling home values. An ideal of marriage, tempered by a culture of divorce, that waits for the perfect soul mate.
Gone is the labor economy of high-paying factory jobs that once offered a lifetime of security after high school. Here to stay, at least for a few more decades, are baby-boom parents who easily fret and don't mind indulging their kids.
When will we - or should we - grow up?
Here are the latest indicators of a society willing to wait:
The average age of U.S. women marrying for the first time has climbed from about 21 to 26 since 1970.
The average age of first-time homebuyers has climbed from 29 to 33 in the last decade.
Four-year bachelor's degrees now usually take five years to complete. Students juggle more and longer internships, often unpaid, enabling workplaces to get by without expanding their staffs.
One in five 26-year-olds is living with a parent, according to a recent Time cover story that coined yet another generational label, "twixters."
They are "a new breed of young people who won't - or can't? - settle down," the magazine proclaimed. "They're betwixt and between."
In March even the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the elastic state of maturity, bumping up to 18 the minimum age that young murderers can face execution for their crimes.
Before ruling, the court reviewed new studies showing some areas of judgment and reason in the brain do not fully develop until well into a person's 20s.
So, get used to adultescents - also known as the "kidults," "thresholders," and "boomerang babies." Sociologists say we will be seeing more in years to come.
In fact, their numbers are multiplying worldwide: Germany calls them nesthockers, or nest squatters. Italy has charted a 50 percent increase since 1990 in mammones, or people who won't eat anywhere but mama's.
In fast-growing Asian nations, living with the folks is the custom.
In the Kansas City region, more college graduates are returning home to stay a spell with their parents, and more parents seem happy to help in the face of harsh economic truths.
"My dad couldn't wait to see me come back," said Brandee Smith, 25, who last year stopped throwing her monthly paycheck at an Overland Park, Kan., apartment and returned to her childhood home. She is now stowing away savings from her marketing job to make a down payment on a house of her own.
"It's nice to come home after a 10-hour workday with dinner already made and brownies waiting," the University of Kansas graduate said. "Even though you've graduated, a lot of parents don't see you as a complete adult."
Or, in the prevailing view, 21st-century market forces won't let you become a complete adult.
"I used to think raising kids was a 21-year commitment, but now I think it's more like 25 to 28 years," said Pat Stilen, a single mother in the Northland who welcomed back daughter Mary Stilen a few years ago.
Mary, then a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska, was working in a restaurant while struggling to land a career tied to her broadcast journalism major.
An 18-month stay in mom's basement allowed Mary Stilen to pay off $5,000 in credit card bills, make a dent in her student loans, replace the car she had been driving since 16 and recalibrate her future. Now she works in a dean's office at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she is close to receiving a master's of business administration degree.
She and her mother wonder how Mary would have landed on her feet otherwise.
"I'd encourage parents to get past their old expectations of when kids will become independent," Pat Stilen said. "Economic times are such, the rules have to change."
The rules already have shifted for a generation that, so far, isn't living as well now compared with when their parents got rolling. For full-time workers between ages 25 and 34, annual earnings adjusted for inflation dropped 17 percent from 1971 to 2002.
Other evidence indicates young adults are choosing to wait longer for their independence. And as life expectancy climbs, experts think that's OK. Could putting off a long-term commitment such as home-buying stave off bankruptcy down the road?
"Some of this is choice, but so much more relates to jobs and the economy," said Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University. "Used to be, at 18, you could start testing the waters of adulthood. ... Now, it's a master's degree and beyond to stay ahead.
"It's not so much that society is getting used to it. It's that social and economic forces have set it up in the first place."
Delayed adulthood appears to be taking root in the teen years - driving a car, for example.
As of 2002, only 43 percent of youths ages 16 and 17 were licensed drivers, down from 52 percent a decade earlier, according to a recent report of the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Although America boasts about a half-million more teens in that age group than two decades ago, those with driver's licenses dropped from 4.1 million to 3.5 million.
"Every generation has its rites of passage, and it used to be getting a driver's license," said Janet Rose, a lecturer of American studies at UMKC. "But at the moment, something like body piercing seems as meaningful a rite of passage."
Soaring gasoline prices don't help. Neither do high insurance costs, especially for the young. Both of these factors have spurred public schools to drop driver education unless a huge fee comes with it.
"I've got friends who drive and some who don't - it's pretty equal," said Patrick Camacho of Lenexa, Kan., who is taking courses at the Kansas Driving School so he may get his license the week he turns 17. "I want to be able to go where I want."
But given that teens are far more accident-prone than are drivers in their 30s, it may be that yesterday's notions about the entry age of adulthood were nonsense.
As the Supreme Court found in reconsidering the death penalty for youths, the latest science shows strong evidence that areas of the brain mature slower than researchers traditionally thought.
Forget the old method of simply weighing brains to determine growth: at age 18 or 40, they seem identical. Yet when it comes to gray matter and the millions of cerebral connections that make humans think like adults, magnetic resonance imaging reveals the wiring may not be fully complete until the mid- to late-20s.
The connections related to impulse, judgment and "thinking ahead" are the last to be soldered.
At Harvard Medical School, researchers have found that youths as old as 17 don't always tap the same brain areas as do 30-year-old subjects when shown photos of people's faces and asked to name the correct emotion.
"If someone insults you at work, an older teen is more likely to throw a punch where an adult would pause and make a sarcastic comment," said sociologist James Cote of the University of Western Ontario.
Before today's "emerging adults" feel ready to plunge into the real world, some such as Anthony Shop choose to pace themselves in hopes of getting it right the first time.
Shop is a senior at William Jewell College. He has a Truman Scholarship to attend the graduate school of his pick. First he'll spend at least a year trying out jobs in journalism, speechwriting or something dealing in international relations.
"Right now I'm thinking international relations ... but it kind of changes by the month," said Shop. "At 22, I don't think it's necessary to choose a permanent career, so long as I'm exploring and thinking about it. Some people have no idea."
Hardly a slacker, Shop already has seen England and Germany as a student. So why wait longer to complete his studies?
It's partly because graduate admissions officials recommend it.
Grab an internship or two, or even six. See other places, try different fields, know what you want, enjoy. It's as much the advice of boomers as it is the natural calling of adultescents.
"We're probably hearing that more from family and professionals in their 40s and 50s," Shop said. "People of that generation look back and think maybe they could've taken more time."
While caution beats rushing into a chosen field, sociologist Cote places some of the cause of stalled adulthood on elders dishing up "false promises and false hopes" to the young.
"We give everyone as much choice as possible. We tell them they all can become doctors or lawyers, when we know the truth is relatively few people wind up there," Cote said. "That's either too much hope or we're lying to them."
Scott Kramer, 37, knows.
He was 18 when he first entered college, and his circuitous journey through academia continues. Now a KU graduate student, Kramer finally will land a master's degree in higher education administration next month.
"If you think back to the mid-80s, when I started, all the yuppies were living life in the fast lane," Kramer said. "The message was: Go out and get it now."
So he tried. Just two weeks after Kramer graduated from high school, his impulses - overcharged by the breakup of his parents - drove him to enter Ball State University in Indiana.
That college dismissed him a couple of times as Kramer jumped from one hot-ticket pursuit to the next.
"Gosh, I've had so many majors," he said: accounting, chemical technology, exercise physiology. He gave up classes for a stretch in the 1990s, worked full time and got married. In the late-`90s economic boom, he enrolled full time at Purdue University in hopes of becoming a financial planner.
"In `99, I'd listen to all the experts about going into financial planning. ... Then the economy went bad." And his marriage fell apart. He moved back in with his mother before he landed at KU.
Here, he may have found his true calling.
Interning at KU's Student Involvement and Leadership Center, Kramer assists nontraditional students wade through financial needs, child-care issues and life's ever-changing expectations.
He wants to make a career of it.
"This," Kramer has discovered, "is my niche."
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
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So, if this really is happening, is it because we coddled these kids and didn't teach them how to compete?
A little of both, and you can throw in being on the wrong end of the Social Security Ponzi scheme.
Would you rather have them depending on their families or depending on welfare? With housing prices what they are sometimes that is the option. It's not always about being sponges. Anyway, if the parents agree to it it's nobody else's business.
The only way I would move back in with my parents is if the other choice was living under a bridge.
I can't under people who do that.
This is going to play havoc with all the adults putting off having children into their late 30's or 40'. Can you see having your kids around when you're in your 70s?
Having a tough time understand all this....especially the whinning about high cost homes, no high-paying factory jobs, blah, blah, blah. It never crossed my mind to return home after leaving for college and graduating. This, without a high-paying factory job, in high-housing S. California, during the high-interest, high gas price Carter years.
The book that I am reading right now talks about this very subject. What you are saying is true and so far everything that anyone has posted on this thread is equally true. But where we went wrong is like you said we coddled these kids. One other aspect that will probably be missed is that the support network that people used to have is no longer what it used to be. Years ago people would marry younger but even then you had relatives real close by to lend a helping hand that is not the case today.
Yeah, this guy has a lot of practical experience to offer /sarcasm!!!!!
Yep, and then as soon as they DO get out of the house they start in wth the "greediest generation! Euthanize them. How DARE they take a paid vacation for the rest of their lives just because they hit sixty=five."
Obviously they didn't want to work in kitchens, phone banks, etc. Those jobs were taken by foreigners because "nobody wanted them".
Our high tech world has automated and otherwise eliminated a lot of job positions (secretaries are still around but these days, everyone with a desk can type, including the boss).
Babyboomers are quick to pull their own into a workforce, considering younger talent a threat. Also some boomers will see a fellow boomer with a divorce and kids to support. That young college graduate can wait awhile, he doesn't have "responsibilities".
There IS age discrimination in the workplace. It isn't just on the older scale either.
That does not explain fully why things are at this state, then again, 100 years ago it was not shameful for a family to remain close and even to provide for grandparents as they got older.
well all i can say is if / when i have kids they are going to have to pay for college on their own which may mean GI Bill ROTC right out of high school
All I know is that at (not quite) 28 years old, I make more money than either of my parents and have lived on my own since I graduated from college. I couldn't wait to move out! I don't know how these people can do this.
I would absolutely hate having to move back with my parents. No way!
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