Of course, we have laws that define when people become “legal” adults, but that doesn’t mean we all feel “grown up” just because we turn 18 or 21. In fact, according to USA Today, only 16% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 consider themselves “grown up” nowadays. Many more figure they’re not really “adult” until they settle down, get married, and have kids. So if you’re too old to be a kid, but not ready to call yourself an adult. then what are you? Jeffrey Arnett, a psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts, says the proper term for this middle group is “emerging adults.”
Arnett says this is a new stage of life brought on by the fact more people are delaying marriage and children. Instead, young adults are traveling more, and trying out more jobs and career paths than they used to. Those who head off to college find themselves experimenting more with their life’s direction, in a sort of ‘prolonged adolescence.’ In fact, many people now stay in school longer, as they seek out a second or third college degree! Ask any of those career students if they feel “grown up,” just because they’ve moved out of their parent’s house, and a majority will say “no.” There’s actually a biological explanation for some of this. A key part of the brain that effects judgment does not fully form in men and women until their early 20s. So, mentally, they’re still growing. This lack of maturity makes it hard for young people to see the consequences of their actions and leads to bad decision making.
The bottom line is, with life spans getting longer and longer, young people feel more encouraged than ever to take their sweet time growing up! That’s according to Maryse Richards, a psychology expert at Loyola University in Chicago. So if you’re a 20-something who still doesn’t know what you want to do with your life, you’re not alone!