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Are Your Kids More Lazy, Spoiled and Childish Than Past Generations?

The complex reality behind 20-something stereotypes

They Never Want to Grow Up

Now that entering the full range of adult responsibilities, such as marriage and parenthood, comes later than it did before, many older adults have scornfully concluded that today's young people never want to be independent. Yes, it's true that many young adults are ambivalent about adulthood and in no hurry to get there. Adult life doesn't look all that thrilling to them.

But never? They never want to become adults? That's not the case. By age 30, about 75 percent of young Americans have a marriage partner, at least one child and a stable long-term job. Most of the rest will reach these milestones some time in their early 30s. So, it's not true that they never grow up. They just want to make use of their emerging adult freedom while they have the chance — go to a different part of the country or the world to live for a while, aim for a long-shot profession such as musician or actor, or just work a low-pay, low-stress job for a while and have a lot of fun with friends. That's not contemptible; it's wise, and we don't give them enough credit for their wisdom. By age 30, nearly all of them are more than ready to trade their footloose freedom for the rewards of enduring bonds to others.

So give them a break! And leave your mind and your heart open to appreciating all the things that make today's emerging adults terrific.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a Research Professor in the department of  psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is a leading expert on emerging adulthood. Elizabeth Fishel is a writer specializing in family issues.

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