There is a new stage of development for parents to consider.
The stages of development are roughly the following: children move from infancy, to early childhood and onwards to middle childhood. These stages take roughly the first ten or so years of life. Our children then move into a long stage known as adolescence (with a number three sub-stages) that is a transition phase into adulthood. That’s it, right?
No, it seems that we have another phase that links adolescence with adulthood. The twenty-first birthday used to signify a move into adulthood and all its accompanying privileges and responsibilities. Now the years from 18 until 25 and beyond seem to have become a distinct stage of life, where young people seem to have lodged for a while, staving off the responsibilities of full adulthood. This phase has been dubbed the Twixter stage.
This group has been on the radar for some years but it seems only now that they are reaching significant status of a sub-culture. They have been variously dubbed ‘permakids’, ‘boomerang kids’ and ‘adultescence’. Their babyboomer parents don’t want to grow old – they don’t want to grow up.
Twixters have put many of the traditional markers of adulthood on hold – home ownership, marriage and children, if they have them, have been delayed until well into their 30’s. Entering the workforce later than previous generations and knowing they will live into their eighties this group has plenty of time to play.
This group can afford to take their time to grow up as they have the luxury of having relatively affluent, cashed-up parents who act as a safety net or a financial back-up in times of need. Oh, and a large number of them still live at home.
It is not as if living at home presents any significant hardship to Twixters. Both parents and twixters hold each other in high regard and maybe both groups gain significant benefits from living with each other longer, rather than having young people flee the nest at the first opportunity.
A recent US Gallup poll found that 90 per cent of young people report being very close to their parents, which contrasts with 40 per cent of babyboomers in 1974 who said that they would be better off without their parents. Twixters and their parents get on with each other.
If young people are delaying partnering and beginning their own families then they are seeking and support networks elsewhere. This is where friends and family of origin play an important role.
Twixters have a special gift for friendships and their culture revolves around strong friendship groups. The American sitcom Friends and its Australian counterpart The Secret Life of Us! showed how friends are a type of surrogate family for twentysomethings – where you go to for emotional support and acceptance.
The point is Twixters will not go away. Biologically, it seems that the human brain is still developing well into the 20’s so a young person’s neurological development at 18 is still a many years from being complete.
There is little doubt that adulthood is delayed in a communal sense. One survey recently found that most people believe that the transition to adulthood should be completed by the age of 26, on average and the number is going up.
So, if your eldest is a toddler then you had better make sure you get on because he or she will be around for a couple of decades yet. It may be a scary thought! It certainly challenges us all to rethink the way we parent young people, rethink the notion of adolescence itself and its transitions and rethink how we organise our personal lives to accommodate the demands of these Peter Pans.
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Michael Grose © http://www.parentingideas.com.au