Kids and parents agree: 18- to 25-year-olds aren’t adults

Kids and parents agree: 18- to 25-year-olds aren’t adults

The following article is very interesting when you consider that we are in the ministry of training men and women to be leaders for the cause of Christ. What do you think? Are they adults or not? Were you? How does this affect the way we should work with them?

By Marilyn Elias, USA TODAY
Once upon a time, 18- to 25-year-olds were considered adults.
That’s a fairy tale now, say most parents of college students, and their kids agree in a new study that confirms “growing up” comes later.

READERS: At what age did you become an adult and how did you know?
Only 16% of mothers and 19% of fathers say their children this age have reached adulthood. And their kids don’t dispute it: Just 16% consider themselves grown up in the online survey of 392 college students and their 590 parents.

The study, reported in the December issue of Journal of Family Psychology, involved students on five diverse campuses.

Most kids agreed with parents that one must take responsibility for one’s actions and have good emotional control to be considered an adult. But parents were far more likely than students to see not becoming drunk and driving safely as vital to adulthood.

“Possibly, this is leftover adolescent stuff,” says family life researcher Larry Nelson of Brigham Young University, the study leader. Many kids are no more responsible about drinking or driving than they were in high school, he says. A lot of binge drinking and experimenting goes on in college.

“They’re out of the home, and that’s more conducive,” he says.

Longer life spans have encouraged a more leisurely pace of growing up, says Maryse Richards, an expert in adolescent psychology at Loyola University in Chicago. “This group is different than adolescents, but not yet adults.”

The term “emerging adults” was coined by psychologist Jeffrey Arnett of Clark University about 10 years ago when he began to study this phase.

Arnett says his studies gave young people another answer option besides “adult” or “not adult”: “in some ways yes, in some ways no.” About two-thirds chose this last option. He found that most young people the same age but not in college also didn’t feel grown up.

“We have a new life stage we didn’t have a few decades ago,” says Arnett, author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens Through the Twenties.

More education with years off between degrees, later marriages, having fewer children and more couples living together before marriage have delayed “settling down,” he says.

“Emerging adults do things, such as travel and trying out different kinds of jobs, that they couldn’t have done as adolescents and won’t be able to do as adults,” Arnett says.

Nelson’s study is one of the very few on this age group that has parents’ views, he says. In Arnett’s research, young people reported that their relationships with their parents were good.

Some young adults, however, flounder and “have conflicts with parents over areas of disagreement,” Nelson says. Although parenting books abound, “there is little out there to help parents with their kids at this stage.”

About the author

Trent serves as an Associate Pastor at Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA. He writes, speaks, and helps lead events that encourage people to "pioneer" in the work of sending.

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