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Will 20-somethings ever grow up?
Psychologists are suggesting that today's unsettled 20-somethings are in a phase of "emerging adulthood." Should we take the idea seriously?
 
Because people in their 20s are taking longer to grow up, some want to make a new stage of development called "emerging adulthood."
Because people in their 20s are taking longer to grow up, some want to make a new stage of development called "emerging adulthood."
Corbis

The passage into adulthood has traditionally connoted a few tangible benchmarks: Leaving home, achieving financial independence, marrying, and having kids. But in recent decades, those steps have been slower in coming for many 20-somethings, inspiring an array of new catchphrases like "failure to launch" and "boomerang kids." Now, as described in a New York Times Magazine feature, some psychologists are saying that this lengthening period of development should be formally designated as "emerging adulthood." Has U.S. society changed so much in a generation that we need a new growth stage for ages 18 to 29?

There's something to the idea: Making "emerging adulthood" into a formal developmental phase raises some problems, says Molly Fischer in The New York Observer, not least because this phenomenon is largely class-based. "But speaking as an 'emerging adult,'" The Times is right that "we and our peers are not actual grownups, or if we are, we have wildly overestimated what being a grownup feels like."
"Times Magazine tries to figure out the twenty-somethings"

The Times just doesn't get youth culture: That's hogwash, says Judy Berman in Flavorwire. The portrait of "emerging adulthood" slackers painted by writer Robin Marantz Henig is "both unfamiliar and offensive" to 20-somethings like me who "pay our own bills." If these "emerging" adults are moving back home, maybe it's because the Baby Boomers' "greed destroyed the economy."
"The 10 most infuriating quotes from... 20-something takedown"

Is anyone a grownup anymore? "The rules have changed" for 20-somethings, says Jessica Pressler in New York Magazine. But Henig misses the bigger issue: "Does anyone ever 'grow up' anymore?" Take the Baby Boomers: Yes, they married younger, got jobs, and had kids. But then "didn't a fairly gigantic number of them freak out and rid themselves of the 'trappings of adulthood' they'd acquired early in life"? Perhaps "we're all emerging adults now."
"The Times asks: When are you going to grow up?"

 

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