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3.12.2012

THE INCREASING AGE OF INDEPENDENCE

Listening to a friend of mine today lamenting a bit about her two oldest children's, 21 and 25, process of "coming of age" or being independent made me think about that issue.  Why is it in our current culture it seems that kids just do not come into being independent as early as they used to?  Why does it appear that kids live at home longer, don't enter the work force as early, don't get married as soon, take longer to get through college than previous generations?  Do I have a bit of "old people-ishness" in me now where I think everything was better way back when?  Has it really changed or not?  I went on a statistical quest to prove what I suspected culturally with this whole age of independence issue.  What I found was supportive of my own train of thought and alarmingly disturbing as well. A study from Keele University found that in the families surveyed 9 out of 10 parents truly believed it was hard for kids to take full financial responsibility for themselves.  It was noted that the age of independence (real and assumed), once 18 years of age, had risen to age 24-26.  The increase in the age of independence has come mainly from the fact that there is a higher percentage of kids who attend college as opposed to 30-40 years ago.  Because of that fact, that final independence step is put off until post-college and sometimes, post-graduate studies are completed and careers are started.  That stat is skewed a bit in lower income families and those who do not attend college.  Their age of independence occurs earlier than 24 and they take on independent roles faster than their educated counterparts.  I also think that part of why we see the age independence rising is in part due to financial reasons.  The 18-30 year old generation isn't willing to wait to self-gratify themselves with possessions.  They want to have the lifestyle of their parents at their present current age.  One way to ensure that, is not to leave their parent's lifestyle or assistance until much later as they forge their own way up the economic ladder.  Costs of higher education are enormous and usually leave a great many young people in debt for the first 10-15 years of their adult lives post-college.  Parents help their kids far later into life which again delays the age of independence also. There are such things as social pendulums.  Things that we see in one generation will skip a generation and show up again in a later generation.   We tend to raise kids wanting for them what we maybe did not garner from our own parents.  That is just the nature of the beast.  What occurs then is a generation who wants to do the same - wants something for their kids that they did not have.  Societal pendulum swings that are somewhat generational.  I was talking with my daughter about this issue.  She is 25 this year.  I asked if she thought my generation taught independence to their children.  Her response was, "I felt like individuality was encouraged and taught but not necessarily independence."   I would most definitely agree with her answer.  My mom is the greatest mom you'd want to meet.  I love her deeply.  She though was not very emotionally present or warm and fuzzy when I was growing up.  Because of that, and maybe that I was created to be this way, I am overly emotionally present and offered that to my daughter when she was growing up.  One day, when Hannah-my daughter was 18 or so she said, "She wished that Mammer (her grandmother and my mother) would have been her mom as she was not emotionally expressive and didn't want to talk about everything like I did!"  Hannah wanted what she did not have!   That is my point with generational and societal pendulum swings.  I wonder what kind of mothering Hannah will bring to the table when her turn to parent is upon her! 

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