A piece in the New York Times by Karen Fingerman and Frank Furstenberg argues that phenomenon of delayed adolescence, in which Americans in their late 20s and even early 30s remain dependent on their families for years, might be beneficial after all.
Our research shows that the closer bonds between young adults and their parents should be celebrated, and do not necessarily compromise the independence of the next generation.
Grown children benefit greatly from parental help. Young adults who received financial, practical and emotional support from their parents reported clearer life goals and more satisfaction than young adults who received less parental support. This support ranged from room and board to making a car available, to parents’ listening to their son or daughter talk about the day.
This whole thing annoys me.
First, this phenomenon is nothing new. There have always been young people unable to find quality jobs who could have benefited by remaining at home. The only difference is that these wayward souls were once the people who did not attend college.
Today it’s the college graduates, many with advanced degrees, who find themselves in a similar position. But this is not a phenomenon. It is merely the extension of an unfortunate reality onto a larger segment of the population.
In today’s economic climate, a college education no longer affords instant access to good job and a substantial salary. But unlike the high school graduate (and high school dropout), many of these college graduates are unwilling to accept the substandard jobs or suffer the substandard living conditions that people like me are forced to endure following high school in order to become independent.
As a result, they remain at home with their parents rather than work the 40, 60 and sometimes 80 hour work weeks at lower paying jobs in order to survive. They accept unpaid internships, work part-time in their chosen field, and reject jobs offers that do not meet their stringent requirements, and refuse to work second jobs while waiting to break into their preferred career.
When I was eighteen years old, I was living on my own, unsupported by family or friends, struggling mightily to make a living.
After graduating high school, I moved into a two bedroom apartment with two friends. I shared a bedroom with one of them, squeezing my bed into a closet for privacy. Life was not easy. There was a winter when we could not afford to turn on the heat. There were weeks when elbow macaroni and bread were my only source of sustenance. This eventually led to a short stint of homelessness before I spent two years sharing a converted pantry in the home of a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses with a man who spoke in tongues and a goat.
Eventually I put myself through college by working more than fulltime and attending classes fulltime.
This is not unusual. I know many people who followed similar paths. They are some of the most impressive, accomplished people I know.
During those years following high school, I worked as a McDonald’s manager, a short order cook, a door-to-door salesman, a waiter, a delivery boy, a cashier, a marketing manager, a bank teller, a farm hand and a telemarketer. Oftentimes I worked two or three of these jobs at one time in order to pay for rent, tuition, my car and other expenses.
Even in today’s economy, jobs like these are available. You simply need to be willing to do the work.
It was not always fun, and I was not always pointed in the direction of my passions (teaching and writing), but I would not be the person I am today without my post-high school struggles. I shudder to think how ill-equipped, weak in spirit and lacking of perspective I might be had my parents taken care of me until I landed my first teaching job at the age of 28 or published my first book at the age of 35.
I know people who have experienced delayed adolescence. Many are accomplished, outstanding individuals who impress me on a daily basis. But when times get tough or tragedy strikes, it is the delayed adolescent who is most likely to crumble.
In times of trouble, give me a self-made man or woman any day.
The researchers report that young adults who receive financial, practical and emotional support from their parents report more satisfaction than young adults who received less parental support.
Did we need research to figure this out?
Is anyone surprised to learn that young adults who do not work, live rent free and eat from their parents refrigerator are more satisfied than the young adults working 60 hours a week, eating elbow macaroni and living in a closet?
What these researchers should do is look into the levels of satisfaction of these young adults twenty years later.
Who is happier? More successful? Better able to handle adversity? The people who were required to find a way to survive at a young age or those who continued to sleep in their childhood beds until they were thirty?
I suspect that the answer to this question is as obvious as what the researchers have discovered already.