Based on more than 500 interviews and ten years' of research, "Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood and Why It's Good for Everyone" is a provocative look at how a changing reality is transforming the transition to adulthood for a generation of Americans, and the implications of this transformation in today's competitive world.
Barbara gives an overview of the book:
There was a time not so long ago when the popular high school graduation gift was a suitcase. Not for nothing, this gift. It marked the young person as a newly minted member of the adult clan, bound for independence and autonomy. Armed with a wallet full of small bills from family, friends, and neighbors, and either a dictionary for college or a pair of new work boots for the factory floor, high school graduates set off to conquer the world with their Samsonites in tow.
Fresh-faced youth hit the road on a clearly marked path. First stop was college, some training, or the military. Next stop was a job. Marriage followed, and in quick order, children. Between marriage and kids, the new family bought a home. All this was accomplished by age 25—and often in that order….
From the vantage point of parents and 18-year-olds today, this beeline to adulthood is unfathomable. Move out? Who can afford it? College degree and a job by age 21—no way. Marriage by age 25? Unheard of. Today, one-half of those between ages 18 and 24 have not even left their childhood bedroom, let alone landed a job, married, and had kids. Today’s graduation gift might as well be a GPS device because the signposts on the road to adulthood seem to have all but vanished.
What happened? If we’re to believe the media, it is the fault of too much coddling, too much self-esteem and praise, and too few hard knocks. Spoiled and indulged at every turn, this is a generation of stunted Peter Pans dodging the serious business of adulthood. Fifteen years ago, you couldn’t pay twenty-somethings to live at home with their parents, even if it meant renting roach-infested apartments and eating Ramen noodles every day. They sucked it up, cut corners, and survived.
But a peek under that rug of easy anecdote reveals a story that is much more complex, a story we tell in this book. The story may surprise you. The media and others may paint young adults as spoiled slackers, implicitly blaming parents for this failure to launch. But the real story largely lies elsewhere, in a host of changes that today affect how young adults think about love, work, home, and country. Like the butterfly that flaps its wings in Indonesia and a thunderstorm erupts in New York, the events and upheavals of the past few decades unleashed a perfect storm just as this generation’s high school graduates were poised to launch themselves onto the tried and true road to adulthood.
These forces have shredded the old rule book for when to leave home, how long to spend in college, when to marry and settle down. The new rule book, meanwhile, is still being written, leaving much ambiguity and uncertainty for young people and their families as they try to make their way. It is a particularly perilous time for those least prepared in this high-stakes world—those, paradoxically, who rush out of the gates and embrace adulthood too quickly.
We hope in this book to dispel these misperceptions about young adulthood and change the conversations we have with our children and one another about these new, untested paths to adulthood.
"Hopeful and challenging, and offering insight that will help us understand this generation"--Jane Isay, author of Walking on Eggshells.
"Not Quite Adults" is perhaps the most important contribution to date about the strange new life of America's 20-somethings." -- Kay Hymowitz, author of Manning Up
I'm the author of Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood and Why It's Good for Everyone (Bantam-Dell, Dec. 2010). I focus on nonfiction, and social science broadly within the nonfiction realm.
Other than books, I own a small...