Friday, July 15, 2011

thoughts on: Not Quite Adults

Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It's Good for EveryoneNot Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It's Good for Everyone by Richard Settersten

I saw this in the new books section and took it home based on its title, without leafing through it first. That was a mistake. I thought it would counter balance my recent read, Boys Adrift, but this was an entirely different sort of book.

Based on research conducted by the MacArthur Foundation, Not Quite Adults purports to present "the real story" of what is happening with today's young people. However, the story it presents is primarily economic. It looks at the entry into adulthood first and foremost through the lens of economic class. There is no real discussion about the individual choices young people make. The researchers seem to feel that with proper support, all will succeed. (Proper support is defined as being provided funds; advise; room and board; and connections, as in contacts to get the right education and job.)

Since this is not what I was hoping for, after the first couple chapters I skimmed through a bit, only reading the sections that I thought might look at it from a parenting perspective. Even those spoke in economic terms. For example, working class parents are too hands-off, not providing enough of the aforementioned supports for their adult children.

Other than those four factors, no reason for dropping out of college or attaining a high paying job is discussed, and there is strong emphasis on the need for higher education as a route to success in this book. Even when they share stories of unwed parents struggling in low paying jobs, it is only framed in terms of parental/grandparental support, as if having a child in one's teens was inconsequential.

In the conclusion, we are given this piece of advise: "True, it is important for young people to be responsible and learn from their mistakes. But it also is unnecessary to let young adult children make mistakes that are certain to be damaging by not intervening."

Let them be responsible, but don't let them make mistakes? Let them. The authors are not talking about teens here. The research covered people from age 18 to 34. I don't think any of the 24-34 year olds I know were interviewed for this research. I can't imagine any of them thinking that their parents should or could prevent them from making mistakes.

I'm betting the parents supporting both their 24 year old and his 4 year old weren't consulted on that decision, so I'm not sure why the MacArthur Foundation thinks they'll be able to intervene on other ones. However, I don't think the researchers consider those types of decisions. They seem to have a one track mind: education = money, and nothing else matters.

Not a philosophy I can embrace.

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