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Author: Being ‘not quite adult’ not a bad thing

Updated: January 15, 2011 7:58PM

Young people today have been criticized in some quarters for taking longer to “grow up.” But in a new book, Not Quite Adult: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood and Why It’s Good for Everyone, authors Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray say adults should back off. Here’s more, from an interview with Settersten, a sociologist at Oregon State University:

Q: We often hear that young adults today are prolonging adolescence and delaying adulthood. You disagree?

A: So much of the conversation about young people in our culture is negative — and so much of our research evidence runs counter to it . . . . A slow path is good, and a fast path is risky.

Q: What’s different today?

A: If you think back just a few decades, we’ve seen the complete evaporation of the manufacturing sector. . . . The second thing that changed a lot is families. Living at home, for example, is a possibility for young people now. Some decades ago, it would have been horrifying to live at home with your parents. [But today] parents and young people feel a closeness or connection that they didn’t have in the past.

Q: You and others have studied this group for 10 years, including almost 500 additional interviews from young people around the country. Did any finding surprise you?

A: There is a realization that to get young people launched today, we need to provide lots of supports. ... Why do we focus so much on making sure that young people are “independent” when human existence is built on relationships?

Q: Your book says “helicopter parents” aren’t so bad after all.

A: We’re not necessarily advocating for helicopter parenting per se, but involved parenting matters. The resources and relationships of parents are crucial in ensuring kids’ successes. We should be more worried about uninvolved parents.

Q: What worries you most about the future?

A: We don’t want to push kids out of the gate before they’re ready. A quick marriage is clearly more likely to end in divorce and involve kids. That’s not good. Quick parenting? It makes it difficult to attain your education and to work full time and build skills and experiences that would help you over the long haul. Early departures from home are much more likely to result in poverty.

Gannett News Service

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