21 Nov

20-Somethings are Taking Longer to Grow Up

We all hope that once that glorious diploma is in our child’s hand, he or she has reached the next level of officially stepping out of childhood and into adulthood. While this may have been the case years ago (and true for some graduates in current times) a recent New York Times article explained that more and more students are delaying adulthood–sometimes all the way into their thirties!

Meaningful Milestones

A generation ago when current baby boomers were graduating college, it was expected that a college graduate would begin their life as an adult. In the 1970’s, it wasn’t unusual for people in their early twenties to be living on their own, supporting themselves financially, and even purchase their first home. In short, 20-somethings in the seventies often achieved the five milestones that traditional sociology marks as integral to the transition to adulthood:

  1. Leaving home,
  2. Completing school,
  3. Attaining financial independence,
  4. Getting married, and
  5. Becoming a parent.

While marriage and parenthood may not be considered requisites for adulthood in this day in age, I think most parents and children would agree that steps one through three–leaving home, completing a higher education, and becoming financially independent–are crucial steps on that path.

Slow and Unsteady

Many students now seem disinclined to rush toward independence and adulthood. In fact, one of my earliest posts on the Pay for College Blog was about “boomerang” children–those students who complete their 4 years of college and move right back home with mom and dad.

Today’s college graduates move at different paces towards adulthood–some will step out of the undergrad years right into independence, while others will delay adulthood by opting out of a career search in favor of more schooling, moving back into their parent’s home, or asking their parents for financial support.  (I remember like it was yesterday how I and my college friends felt after we graduated college back in the early 80s: we wouldn’t have been caught dead moving back in with our parents!  We were committed to doing whatever it took to be independent.  Times have sure changed since then…)

Encouraging Adulthood

One of our most important roles as parents is to help our children build the courage and faith to embrace adulthood when the time comes. I have addressed several ways we can help our children prepare for their truly independent years in previous articles–you may find them helpful in encouraging your child to take the reigns after graduation:

Remember, the earlier you start preparing your child, the more empowered–and less anxious–he or she will feel on graduation day.

All the best,
Deborah Fox


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