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The Delayed Adulthood of 20 Somethings

I don’t wanna grow up! The New York Times recently published an article by Robin Marantz Henig entitled, What Is It About 20-Somethings? The basic premise of the article is that many twenty somethings are extending adolescence past their teen years. The article stated, “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 the sixties, the majority of men and women had passed these milestones, but by 2000, this included fewer than half of women and one-third of men.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychology professor from Clark University, has termed this phase of life “emerging adulthood.”

Many emerging adults do not seem to be prepared to make monumental decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. So what can followers of Jesus do to help twenty somethings successfully maneuver through these difficult years?

1. Develop authentic friendships with them. Emerging adults need relationships with more mature adults who have experienced this difficult stage of life. They need to know that we care for them. It could be that they have not had mature adult role models. Emerging adults need to know that we are willing to help guide them through life’s complex maze.

2. Allow them to fail. Perhaps emerging adults have been conditioned to be less adventurous in life because they have been coddled by well-meaning parents and teachers. It may be that growing up is scarier for them than the alternative. Although it may seem natural to give them all the answers, it might be time to let them learn some life lessons on their own.

3. Be patient with them. Emerging adults can be flaky in their commitments and in their relationships. We need to accept them despite their flaws. None of us is perfect!

4. Point them to Jesus. Many emerging adults are floundering, trying to find their way. We need to show them that Jesus is the way. He understands what they are going through, and he provides the answers to their life’s difficulties.

What else can we do to to help emerging adults navigate through their extended adolescence?

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