U.S. 20-somethings not in hurry to become adults, marry or raise kids

Dave Masko's picture

EUGENE, Ore. – Those who think many of today’s youth are slackers who just want to play computer and video games and hang-out, may want to read “Not Quite Adults: Why 20-somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood;” while, at the same time, today’s youth might not be ready to answer President Obama’s call to help jump-start America’s economy through innovation, say experts.

The book hits youth hard with a point of view that they have a “sense of entitlement to their immaturity and to their dependence on their parents’ purse strings.” The book goes on to say that 20-somethings just want to have fun, and they don’t want the hassles and responsibilities of adults. They want to stay as kids who play games, go out and party and just do nothing for as long as they can get away with it.

As for the so-called new economy that replies on such things as tech and computer innovations, Facebook’s social networking and the wonders of smartphones, economists say those technologies “have not provided jobs for today’s youth even with college diplomas.”

In short, all the texting and online computer “fun” that today’s youth enjoy and cherish does not add up to a hill of beans when it comes to “innovation and progress,” say experts.

While it’s unfair to group America’s 20-something youth with such negative views, “Not Quite Adults” book authors Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray want to shatter these widespread stereotypes by having a bit more empathy for what today’s youth that experts say are somewhat dazed and confused.

According to the book’s marketing pitch, Not Quite Adults “gets to the heart of how and why the course to adulthood has become so complicated, what these changes mean for families and for our country, and what we should do about it. Rather than playing the blame game by pointing fingers at helicopter parents or entitled teenagers, the authors show how cultural and economic forces have radically transformed the ‘traditional’ path to adulthood, creating a very different set of challenges as well as opportunities for today’s young adults.”

Rick Settersten, Ph.D., is a Hallie Ford Endowed Chair and professor of Human Development and Family Sciences, and director of the Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families, at Oregon State University. He is also a member of the MacArthur Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood. A graduate of Northwestern University, Settersten has held fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin, the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern, and the Spencer Foundation in Chicago.

Settersten was in Eugene on Tuesday to discuss his new book that’s become a popular read at both the University of Oregon and Oregon State University where this 20-something generation is being taught to help take the reins of today’s high-tech society.

“They’re waiting. They’re not rushing into marriage, and they’re in no hurry to become adults in the sense of taking on the responsibilities of raising kids, owning a home and doing what they’re parents and grandparents did,” explained Settersten during a recent public radio interview in Eugene.

Moreover, Settersten said the vast research over the past 10 years points to today’s youth wanting to take a “slower course and not so much a slacker course.”

He said many of today’s youth are more “strategic and careful with their choices. They want to build credentials, skills and experiences that will ensure stronger and more stable futures.”

“Like the butterfly that flaps its wings in Indonesia, causing a thunderstorm to erupt in New York, the events and upheavals of the past few decades have unleashed a perfect storm, and shredded the old rule book for [adulthood]. The new rulebook, meanwhile, is still being written, leaving much uncertainty for young people and their families as they try to make their way,” states the book.

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