The legal definition of the age of majority or being able to vote and sign contracts is 18 years of age. But the definition of adulthood is defined more broadly by most Americans.
Most would proffer that adulthood begins when a person moves out of their parents’ home and no longer relies on them for financial support. So often I hear people in the 20 to 29 year old age range being criticized for their apparent dependency and extended financial reliance on their parents.
According to Jeffery Jensen a researcher at Clark University, “20-something’s today are very different than their parents or grandparents.” Many of these young people are staying in education longer and are seeking more advanced degrees. Many years ago a person with a bachelor’s degree was considered highly educated now that equivalent is probably a master’s degree.
People are getting married much later in life as a rule, twenty seven years of age for women and twenty nine years of age for men. Women are having children later and are settling down much later than previous generations. Many 20-something’s are unable to get full time, life sustaining jobs and as a consequence continue to be dependent on parents for money and other support such as a place to live, a car or healthcare insurance.
New words are being used to describe these new societal changes such as “extended adolescence or delayed adulthood.” “Boomerang Children,” is another phrase to describe children that go off to school or work but end up back at home because of heavy student loans, no job or a combination thereof.
Some Americans are frustrated with this generation and view these developments negatively and assign blame to this generation and feel that they “just need to stand on their own two feet and grow up.” So what is the upside of this apparent delay in development toward adulthood? During the time of the “emerging adult” there will be time to experience many different jobs which may help the individual to end up in a job that is based on experience and like rather than just needing a job. This emergent period will also allow individuals to explore different relationships so that when they are ready to settle down they will have enough experience to make a good and well-reasoned decision about one of life’s most important decisions.