As more twentysomethings refuse to move out of the house, pundits blame the economy. But what if they just don’t want to leave — or grow up?
- Last Updated: 4:27 AM, June 17, 2012
- Posted: 10:12 PM, June 16, 2012
“This,” Arnett says, “is the new reality.”
Yet there’s resistance to Arnett’s theory, both within and without the psychological community. Unlike adolescence, “emerging adulthood” isn’t a stage of human development that affects everyone and therefore can’t be classified as such. It’s more likely more situational and environmental: If you have parents who are highly involved and protective, it makes sense that a young adult might, in turn, be overly reliant on their parents.
Technology, too, has helped collapse traditional boundaries: Parents friend their kids on Facebook, can stay in constant conversation via Twitter or text, have access to areas of a young adult’s life that were once considered not for parental consumption.
All of this leaves older generations a bit queasy. America, after all, is a country founded on the dire necessity of independence, the place where the axiom “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” originated. And this makes the kids who choose to work in New York City, yet live plumply and plushly at home, even more curious: What is the point of attempting to make it in New York — the most difficult, competitive, expensive, filthy and gloriously aggravating city in the world — if your game’s rigged, if there’s no real consequence to failing?
‘This is a strange country,” says Carl Pickhardt, psychologist and author of “Boomerang Kids.” “We pride ourselves on independence, and yet we’ve protracted dependence. It’s a two-sided deal. It would be different if we had parents who said, ‘Hey — you hit 18 and you’re out the door.’” He laughs. “But that’s not what we’ve got.”
He’s right: Boomerang kids are the product of what’s been called “cockpit parents,” so named because they’re co-piloting, step-by-step, the trajectory of their child’s life, cheating them of the opportunity to develop resourcefulness, self-reliance, the ability to balance a checkbook.
Pickhardt traces this all back to the publication of Dr. Spock’s “Baby and Child Care” in 1946, which he says introduced the concept of “professionalized parenting,” the notion that there was an algorithm to raising a brilliant, successful child that would be an adequate reflection of the parents themselves.
“As we increasingly put parenting front and center,” he says, “we ended up protracting dependence in a way we didn’t anticipate.”
Pickhardt doesn’t subscribe to Arnett’s theory of “emerging adulthood,” but he does believe that adolescence lasts longer than we think, and that the last stage occurs from ages 18-23. And because it takes longer for young people to mature than previously thought, “it creates complications for parents about how much to hold on, and how much to let go.”Follow @NYPostOpinion