As Robin Marantz Henig points out in her recent New York Times article, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?”, there is no set definition of responsible adulthood. You can vote at 18, drink (legally) at 21 and rent cars hassle-free at 25. Is this just the way things shook out, or is it illustrative of a certain confusion around those entering conventional adulthood – a confusion born of the need to set the ages of 18-29 apart as a separate developmental stage, complete with its own allowances and expectations?
In the article, psychology professor Jeffry Jensen Arnett references something he likes to call “the age 30 deadline.” One assumes, after reading said article, that this is the final buzzer on some cosmic clock, after which your future begins to calcify at an increasing rate.
This “deadline” is mentioned in passing, an offshoot of a much longer discussion on the much-debated developmental stage Arnett refers to as “emerging adulthood”.
In Arnett’s idea of “emerging adulthood,” the much-ballyhooed “20-somethings” bounce back and forth, collecting life experiences, learning how to make their own decisions and defining themselves in a world that has not only changed since their parents’ time, but continues to change at an increasingly rapid rate. He views the ages between 18 and 29 as a very specific developmental stage, much like adolescence.
This is all played against things like the rising numbers of “emerging adults” moving back in with their parents, the high turnover rate in burgeoning careers and the varied legal definitions of what age one must reach before he or she is determined to have sufficient sensibility.
The question is, do these young adults need room to roam? Is it healthier to take some time to discover at the expense of getting a start on the rest? More importantly, in regards to Arnett’s point, does this decade deserve unique classification?
Personally, I’m ambivalent as to whether or not these things happen, but don’t believe that they can only happen (and count) between 18 and 29-years-old. I can think of plenty of people who have continued to discover themselves past 30, 40, 50, etc. To me, the question is less about whether people change a lot during their 20′s and more about whether or not they continue to evolve past that. If we accept that the 20′s are something special, in need of unique social and psychological amenities and allowances, then it seems as if we must also devalue the time that comes after them.
What do you think? Is there something about those restless 20-somethings, or is it just another attempt to quantify the unquantifiable?Article By: Forest Taylor