In May 2010, The New Yorker magazine published in the front page a photo of a man, moving boxes in his arms, who picked up his graduate degree from the wall of his parents’ house.
Even if it’s a bit of an exaggeration, the caricature is a great demonstration of a very common phenomenon these days: the eternal teenagers.
It is more and more common to see people approaching their 30s, or even more, and who still have not taken on the normal responsibilities of an adult.
The United States Census Agency estimated that in 1970, 77% of women and 65% of men aged 30 had achieved the following goals: complete their education, have their own housing, be financially independent, get married and have a child.
However, in 2000, the same agency estimated that only 50% of women and 35% of men in their 30s had achieved the same goals.
To understand this study, the main question that arises is the following: if the young people of today did not reach these goals, is it because they cannot reach them, or quite simply that they do not want?
Why do many people fail to make it past adolescence? Many elements feed this “fashion” of the eternal adolescent. One of the first factors in the dock is economic conditions.
In his article titled “ Delayed Maturity: How is the Recession Affecting Millennials? “Derek Thompson estimated that 49% of 18-34 year olds took a job just so they could pay their bills.
Worse still, 35% of them have returned to school because of economic pressure, while 22% have postponed the idea of a baby for purely financial reasons.
The cost of a university education has increased considerably over the past 30 years. University debts and the real estate crisis have made home ownership very difficult, which does not make family life easier.
Note that the author of this article presents statistics obtained in the United States, but that they can easily be extrapolated to many countries in Europe.
Other researchers blame show business and pop culture for the widespread delay in maturity.
Movies, television series and all works of fiction in general glorify irresponsible and unbalanced behavior.
People between the ages of 20 and 30 don’t read as many newspapers as they did in the past, and are less interested in art and charity.
Some believe that acting like a teenager into your late twenties is biologically normal.
Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus says neuroscience has shown that human cognitive development continues after age 18 and that emotional maturity, self-image and judgment can be affected until the development of the pre-frontal cortex is fully completed.
In addition to the brain development that occurs at this time, strong hormonal activity can also disrupt the individual, and continue until the early twenties.
“The idea that at 18, all of a sudden, you become an adult is not at all relevant,” says Laverne Antrobus, who works at the Tavistock Clinic in London.
In her work, which receives the approval of many other psychologists, she estimates that the teenage stage can continue until approximately 25 years of age. An age that should be, according to her, the new symbol of adulthood.
A strong idea comes to support this new conception of adulthood proposed by Laverne Antrobus: global life expectancy has greatly increased in recent years.
According to a recent study, men live 11 years longer and women 12 years longer than 40 years ago.
This phenomenon therefore causes a delay in the maturation of the individual. This is also why European governments are starting to push back the retirement age well beyond 60 years.
Even if the precise cause of the change in age that marks the end of adolescence is not known, it is nonetheless a real phenomenon.
Does this change seem healthy to you? And, if we continue on this path, will the future be brighter, or on the contrary darker?