Here is a really interesting article on the nature of young adulthood and the changing forces that are shaping the lives of people in their twenties all across the world. Personally, I think it's a really interesting analysis of the kinds of issues that people my age are facing, and I think it has a lot to say about the kind of world we live in right now.
Obviously, the world has changed drastically in the last 20 years. The economy has become faster, more demanding, and unstable than ever before, higher education is no longer seen as the solid foundation from which any young person can guarantee success, and the music is undeniably better. Granted, societies have been evolving for thousands of years, and one generation is never the same as its predecessor. However, some scientists believe that what we currently have on our hands is a beast of a different nature. Not only different kind of lifestyle, but a new phase in life.
Jeffrey Arnett, a professor at Clark University, calls it "emerging adulthood," that period of time in your 20s that all recent graduates can fondly point to. Job insecurity, a lack of direction, and a reliance on your folks have come to dominate many of the discussions carried out by those who would predict the moral and productive downfall of our youth. However, Arnett (and many others) see a highly beneficial aspect to this new period of life as well.
True, those in "emerging adulthood" often focus more on themselves rather than others, but is that such a bad thing? In a world in which the dominating rhetoric is failed marriages, parentless children, unhappy jobs, and the constant dissatisfaction that many feel with life, perhaps it makes sense to spend a bit more time thinking about what you want to do with your life rather than diving right in after college.
At least, this is what Arnett suggests, suggesting that "emerging adulthood" will come to serve as a necessary process for self development just as "adolescence" was a hundred years ago. He notes the parallels that a changing industrial economy and new pressures on the family had for the way we treated our children: with more time in their teens to devote to personal development rather than supporting a family, developmental psychologists realized that children needed a deeper period of development and teaching. Thus was born "the adolescent years" as well as the societal infrastructure to deal with them.
And if Arnett is right, if "emerging adulthood" is a real developmental phenomenon, then we'll have to start thinking about how we can nurture those coming out of adolescence and into the real world.
Maybe it reflects a lack of drive, a loss of ability, and a world saturated with highly-educated individuals; or maybe it reflects an additional step in the lives of young adults everywhere, one which allows them to fine-tune their skills, learn about themselves, and make more calculated decisions in their life. Only time will tell, but my money is on Arnett.