“Emerging Adulthood” or What’s the Matter with Kids Today?

Posted on August 23, 2010. Filed under: childhood studies |

via Historiann who criticizes yesterday’s the New York Times magazine story bemoaning “failure to launch” and “boomerang kids,” who take longer to reach adulthood than generations past. [ “What Is It About 20-Somethings?”]

Historiann reminds of the work of  Stephanie Coontz, who shows that the low average age of first marriage during the 1950s was an aberration compared to the rest of American history, and much lower than among free people in colonial America, where the average age at first marriage was mid-20s for women and later 20s for most men.

Even during the heyday of early marriage — the period following the Second World War — experts in marriage and family life warned, “Wed Before Twenty, Trouble Aplenty” (this is the title of an article on sex education from the American Journal of Public Health).  Young people who married as teenagers were more likely to have severe marital problems and had higher rates of divorce.

Experts during the 1930s worried about young people whose journey into adulthood was during the Great Depression — but they blamed this on the terrible job opportunities of the era, not on some vague new life stage called “emerging adulthood.”

I’m sure there are many young people who would gladly “get a life” if someone would offer them a decent job that would provide a salary adequate to live independently.

Of course, I may be biased, since my selfish refusal to fulfill my biological destiny child-free by choice status means I have failed to achieve one of the “five milestones” of adulthood listed in the Times article.

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    Heather Munro Prescott

    Heather Munro Prescott

    Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT.

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