What about us 20 somethings…

What Is It About 20-Somethings?


The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, five years in a little more than a generation.

We’re in the thick of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. A Canadian study reported that a typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early ’70s.

Just as adolescence has its particular psychological profile, Arnett says, so does emerging adulthood: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities.” A few of these, especially identity exploration, are part of adolescence too, but they take on new depth and urgency in the 20s. The stakes are higher when people are approaching the age when options tend to close off and lifelong commitments must be made. Arnett calls it “the age 30 deadline.”

“To be a young American today is to experience both excitement and uncertainty, wide-open possibility and confusion, new freedoms and new fears,” he writes in “Emerging Adulthood.” During the timeout they are granted from nonstop, often tedious and dispiriting responsibilities, “emerging adults develop skills for daily living, gain a better understanding of who they are and what they want from life and begin to build a foundation for their adult lives.” If it really works that way, if this longer road to adulthood really leads to more insight and better choices, then Arnett’s vision of an insightful, sensitive, thoughtful, content, well-honed, self-actualizing crop of grown-ups would indeed be something worth waiting for.

This was a very interesting article. As a 20 something I agree with most of it.  It been interesting to see if from over here, now that I know more about Europe also that what is different with the 20s between the youth of the countries. It to me is that us Americans are becoming more European. Its much hard since well school is not free or almost free, and we don’t have health care until now cover, also a lot of them live at home or really close to home which for us is not possible and/or looked down at.

five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child.Out of the 5 “milestones” to become adult I have done 2, but not really. School yes but its only a BA which as I”m looking for jobs is nothing most you needs Masters which is now almost the new college. Leaving home is really the only one I have done, which almost over the top since its over the pond. But all the others no. So almost at 25 which I should have done all 5 I have done 1.5. I also see a change with many of us, we are taking a year off to travel or volunteer. We are taking time to find the right job, or do many jobs. Its not like our parents generation where they all worked in only a couple jobs in their whole lifetime, where we do that in just one decade.

It also talks about how this is just “western” which I can see why. Most people don’t have the time to wait around and find or decided the perfect vocation, place to live, person to love and marry. Most of the time its all picked before they are even born or right after.So if its mental it might not show up beacuse they don’t have the time to really let it. And maybe they really do miss that stage of life and are trying to keep up with it. Maybe in 25 years not so many people will have mid life crises as before.

We have to look at this as American, the land of options. Where we have so many options, its now taking time to look and think all about them for us. Where some days its to much. The past 2 years I just go where I’m told but now I have all these options and well frankly I’m so overwhelmed its mind boggling. Jobs, places to live, friends, life partners are all just  like the american cereal aisles- overwhelming! So for this I say give us time to figure it all out. So if its mental development or environmental either way, back off us. We are working and trying as hard as we can to move forward to become adults.  But really maybe its time to come up with 5 new milestones that fit the new generations and “time”.

About AEK
A graduate student at St. Kate's in the MAOL program where I'm a Peace Corps Fellow. I'm a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Bulgaria 2008-10. I have a B.A. in Anthropology from Luther College, where I gained my love for travel.

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