An eyeopener written by Ms. Vanessa Valenzuela of Health.Care Magazine.
Review to follow.
FOREVER A CHILD: A NEW SOCIAL SYNDROME?
Meet Betty, a single 32-year-old account executive from Makati who recently broke up with her boyfriend of 3 months. During free time she loves listening to the latest club music while checking friend updates on her multiple social network accounts. Despite earning a decent salary, Betty chooses to live with her parents in their Quezon City home because this set up allows her to save money from rent, utility bills and some meals.
About half of what Betty makes in a month is spent on paying for her credit card bills, which she uses to buy the latest gadgets and branded clothes. She looks forward to: ”gimmick” night with pals and splurging hundreds of pesos on semi-expensive restaurants with her officemates few times a week. When asked her plans of settling down and having children, Betty sees it as a decision she would have to make in the future – in the very distant future.
From a typical adult’s perspective, you may see that Betty is undergoing a seemingly delayed phase of “growing up,” which social scientists call “adultescence.”
WHAT IS ADULTESCENCE?
According to TIME Magazine’ January 2005 article “Meet the Twixters.” “adultescence” is a period between adolescence and adulthood that many of today’s 18 to 29 year olds (or even older) delay for a few extra years. It’s a phase wherein people refuse to “grow up” to face conventional adult responsibilities like starting a family and being financially independent.
According to Paul McFedries, author of wordspy.com, the earliest citation of the term” adultescent” came out in the 1996 Precision Marketing Magazine article entitled “Adultescenct Marketplace”. It described moneymakers who had a lot of disposable income because they didn’t have any other obligations like paying for rent or mortgages or raising children. Other variations and terms would eventually be coined: “Adulescents,” “adultolescents,” rejuvinles” and “kidult.” The term adultescent became so popular that the editors of the Webster’s New World College Dictionary chose it as word of the year in 2004.
According to demographers, psychologists and sociologists, “adultescence” is a permanent trend and it won’t go away. Its worldwide phenomenon- many countries already have their own version to the term “adultescents.” “Freeters” among the Japanese, “Kippers” for the British, “Mammones” for the French and “Nesthockers” for the Germans.
We may not have an exact term for “Adultescent” here in the Philippines, but when we describe the social demographics and habits of “yuppies” or “young professionals” from urban areas like Metro Manila, there may be a surprising resemblance. Think about it: how many people you know within this age group today that have already moved out from mom and dad’s home, are married with kids and are 100% financially independent? I can only name a few in my own social circle.
The figures worldwide can’t lie. In many countries like the US, over 20% of their population belonging to this age group is still dependent on their parents – that’s 1 in 5. This percentage has already doubled since the 1970s, and numbers just keep on growing, according to experts. In Italy, for example, over 50% of Italians over the age of 20 have been found to be still sharing a roof with their parents.
WHAT CAUSES THE RISE IN “ADULTESCENTS”?
There have been many social theories on why this phenomenon came about. According to the New York Times article published in 2004, it could be because of the increasing cost of education and housing. Especially in highly urbanized areas like New York or in our case, Metro Manila, the towering cost of property has made it harder for young people to afford having one. Rent for a condo unit in the Metro Manila, Ortigas or Makati City can cost even more than what a junior executive would earn for the entire month!
Bringing children into the picture only makes it worst – cost of formula milk, healthcare, and education can make any young professional with a promising career think twice. No wonder more and more couples have chosen to delay marriage and child rearing for as long as they can. The average age for Americans to get married has risen four years since the 1970s- now its 27 for men and 25 for women. The same statistical report showed that the proportion of single, never married people in their early 30’s has tripled, Ever head of the saying “30 is the new 20”?
Another explanation for the rise in “adultescents,” as mentioned in the NY Times article, is that young adults now enjoy the same pleasures of marriage without the consequences. Years ago, sex outside of marriage was considered taboo especially in a Catholic country such as the Philippines, We would even hear stories of shotgun weddings or forced marriage because a young lady lost her virginity to a young man.
More and more Filipinos today, however, are changing their views about sex and marriage. Rather than words that come together as a package, sex and marriage has become separate terms – sex does not necessarily have to lead to marriage. This is perhaps why many couples today choose to stall long term commitment while enjoying the perks of having a relationship and their parent’s financial support.
HOW WOULD YOU KNOW IS YOU ARE LIVING WITH AN “ADULTESCENT”?
- Is he/she still being supported financially by a parent or family member even is he/she has a job already?
- Does he/she seem to lack direction in life? No immediate plans on how his/her life would be in the next 3 to 5 years?
- Does he/she tend to change jobs every so often? Like he/she can’t seem to keep a steady career path?
- Does he/she hope around from relationship to relationship, not finding the “right one” all the time?
- Does he/she spend most of his/her salary on expensive gadgets or clothes that normally couldn’t be attained by a person of his/her economic capability?
- Does he/she indulge on partying nightly or spend most of the time playing video games as it he/she was still in college?
If you answered yes to majority of the questions above, then its official: you are living with an “adultescent.”
WHY DO ADULTESCENTS REFUSE TO GROW UP?
In an article written by comedian Richard Herring entitled “Hey, kidult you’re not fooling anyone” (2007, the Sunday Times), he describes how “adultescents” or “kidults” like him suffer from Peter Pan syndrome –they choose not to grow up because, unlike their parents, they are able to make that choice.
Most likely, if you are a kidult, your parents (probably now in their 50s or 60s) had a pretty mapped out life: they graduated from college, got a job in the same field as that of their father’s, married their college sweetheart, had several children, worked hard to make ends meet and provide the basic family needs. There may be some parents whose unplanned pregnancy gave them no choice but to put everything on fast forward. Most of them were forced to “grow up” and work to raise and support kids in their early 20’s. You know their stories and acknowledge the hardships they had to go through…some of you would even swear that you’d never allow this to happen to you.
Today’s generation has never been more empowered to become whoever they want to be, whenever they wish. So many career choices are out there, so many kinds of jobs that never even existed when your parents were your age. Some of these jobs don’t even require a person to clock in time inside an office. The hundreds of choices laid out and the desire to become “unique” can confuse “adultescents” on which path to take, establish a life plan despite earning their own income.
So what happens to all that disposable cash? Spend them on things you’ve always wanted. A “Kidult” is just literally a kid with an adult’s wallet. They now have more money to spend on things – on looking good (i.e. fashionable clothes, sophisticated skin care regimen, gym membership) and owing expensive toys (i.e. cars, gadgets, plasma TV).
SHOULD YOU “HELP” AN ADULTESCENT?
“Helping” someone suggests a person is in an unfortunate situation. An “adultescent” may not necessarily need help. In fact, many prominent social scientists who have studied “adultescence” see it as a positive stage of development, where kidults are reaping the benefits of years of social liberation and affluence. These social scientist view “adultescence” as a great chance for young people to enjoy, do some soul searching and find the life path that they want to take.
According to University of Maryland developmental psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, kidults are actually doing important work that prepares them for adulthood. It is this one stage of their life wherein they are responsible for no one but themselves and have the complete freedom to focus on how they want their lives to turn out. If you’re living with a 25-year-old kidult, you can help by showing him/her some career options that you as an experienced adult would be happy in. Teach him/her how to keep credit card spending to the minimum and introduce more responsible investment options.
However, if your kidult is 40 years old, be more aggressive on getting the message across. Remember, putting off responsibility won’t prepare you for responsibility. Our parents who reared children at a young age never learned how to until they were already in the situation.
ADVICE TO ADULTESCENTS
If you are an “adultescent” reading this article, Arnett gives this advice: “Enjoy it…Once it goes, it ain’t coming back.” Enjoy your freedom, your money, and your single blessedness while you can because sooner or later your time and money will have to be devoted on some other things like your kids, paying up your house, car plans, kids’ education, etc.
To start getting serious with life, you need friends/family members willing to help. Stop wasting time on doing things that won’t amount to anything–like playing video games, getting drunk or watching senseless TV.
Learn how to cook. This not only saves you money from eating out, it also teaches you to plan and schedule your meals. Cooking your own meals is also healthier and it gives you the chance to serve other people.
Cut down on the impulsive shopping, one of the reasons why you’ve never left your parent’s house in the first place. You don’t need hundreds of new clothes or the latest cell phone model. Try to survive a full year without buying new clothes or gadgets and see what this can do to your bank account.
Consider making investments. If you have a lot of disposable income, put it in places that can “double its value.” Talk to a life insurance agent or a real estate agent and talk about what you can invest on. When you get older and tired of working, even if you don’t get married or have kids, you will need a place of your own or financial assistance should anything happen to you.
Lastly, avoid wasting time on relationships that have no future (like one night stands). This does not mean you marry the first guy/girl you meet. Rather try to keep your relationships for the long term this time. Maybe if you just take your current loved one more seriously, you may have already found the person who you could spend the rest of your life with.
- Tierney, John. – Adultescent (New York Times)
- Meyer, Susan R. – Mapping Midlife – Adultescence? (Ezine Articles)
- The Sunday Times – Hey, kidult you’re not fooling anyone
- The Rebelution – Kidults (Part 1) Adolescence is permanent
- Harris, Alex and Harris, Brett – Addicted to Adultescence (Boundless Webzine)