Friday, June 1, 2012

Has Adam Sandler Led us to a Place Where Immaturity is Vogue?

No. But I wonder if his popularity trail doesn't mirror the cultural trend that it's ok to be (shall we say) less than mature well into one's twenties?

When I was in my late teens all I wanted to do was grow up. Mature. Be my own man. Be thought of as a man instead of a kid. My observations of that same demographic now, led me to believe that today's 20-something guitar heroes have different aspirations.

It seems to me based on movies and the pictures and anecdotes shared on social media, that being a 20-something isn't about being the man as much as it's license to be kid-like.

To be clear, this isn't necessarily right or wrong. When I was in my twenties being in a bar drinking too much might have been my "manly," while taking goofy pictures of you and your friends in Walmart might be the event du jour. One may appear more mature, but I assure you it isn't.

 Observations can be highly suspect, so I did some data-digging to see what I could find:

> In 1970, 69% of white men were married by 25 according to Bookings Institution.
> In 2003, 33% of white men were married by 25.

>In 1970, 70% of 30 year olds had married, started a family and achieved financial independence.
>By 2000, that figure had dropped below 40%.

>More young men and women are attending college, but the median number of years to complete a degree has risen from four to five since 1970.

Check this out. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett,  a research professor at Clark University claims there is currently a kind of extended adolescence from 18 to late 20s. He calls it an emerging childhood.

"People don't go from adolescence to young adulthood at 18,19,20 as they did 50 years ago. It doesn't happen until close to age 30 for most people now," Arnett said.

This new dynamic does not just fall on the shoulders of 20-somethings. Their parents are more involved with them than any other parents in our history. This creates some new challenges. As life coach Christine Hassler said,

"They're closer to their parents than any other generation, and that impacts not feeling like a grown-up, because they're still highly parented into their twenties. One of the things I have to work with my clients on is getting them to stop calling their parents multiple times a day and consulting them for every decision that they make."

Sarah Fulghum, a 25 year old editor-in-chief says, "You can't blame these people for prolonging their teenage years, when their parents make it so easy. If society wants 20-somethings to become adults, it all starts with their parents expecting them to be adults and holding them to that standard."

Similarly, Brookings senior fellow William Galston said,

"No one resists or resents it (help, financial and otherwise from parents). Young people expect it. They expect it because their parents won't let them fail."

That last sentence stings a bit. What parent hasn't stepped in to prevent their older teen child's failure? And so it seems by this statement, that failure may be the path of maturity. Letting our children fail may be critical to our children's maturity and something we parents ironically fail at.

So what do I know?

It seems that millennials (generation Y) are in fact delaying adulthood more than prior generations.

As a parent of this generation, I have to learn to parent in such a way that encourages true independence while remaining relationally in touch with my children. Easier said than done.

For 20-somethings, I encourage you to work hard to be your own man. It's always taken hard concerted effort and it always will. It's always harder than playing Crazy Train on Guitar Hero. As a generational father to you, I am here to help. Even if what you need is for me to let you fail.

Now, who wants to sit down and laugh our asses off over The Wedding Singer?

Data for this post was from these two articles; both worth reading:
Is 26 the New 18?
Is 26 the New 18? Reconsidering When Adulthood Begins