Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Emerging Adulthood (Or, It's Nice Not to Work If You Can Afford It)

The New Atlantis » Slacking as Self-Discovery:
Extrapolating primarily from the statistics on the increasing age of marriage and childbearing in the United States and refusing to lament them, Arnett argues forcefully that emerging adulthood is a positive development. Free from external constraints (and often supported financially by their parents), twentysomethings have the opportunity to try an array of temporary jobs, relationships, educational paths, and residences to find which of these are most to their preference. In winnowing down the options, they are also able to “find themselves,” a discovery that will serve them well as adults, assuming they ever decide to become adults. Armed with the self-knowledge gained from a decade of working at Starbucks, joining the Peace Corps, and sharing a basement studio in Brooklyn with four other emerging adults, those at the end of emerging adulthood will better make the family and career decisions they had been putting off, resulting in a future of greater life satisfaction and stability.
I'm not sure it makes sense to try to understand emerging adulthood as a positive or negative development for society in general, or whether it's something closer to a symptom of a real problem. But, if the time between college and full employment isn't completely wasted on booze, drugs, video games, loafing, hipster-doofusism, and being a parasite on your parents, I'd wager folks who have a wide range of experiences in their twenties don't regret it. Not exactly rocket science. Of course, it helps to have wealthy parents. Working-class kids without trust funds, allowances, or the ability to play for years at a time with a minimum of work, don't really get an emerging adulthood, they get a soul-crushing period of un- or underemployment, and hard-scrabble living. A more interesting study might be address what that more common experience means to society in general and those individuals in specific.

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