A Delayed Metamorphosis

Is the youth transitioning into adulthood later than expected?

A few decades ago, adulthood was thrust into the emerging youth’s arms. In India, by the age twenty, men were working to support their families, married to younger women (of eighteen or younger) and pursuing education was but a luxury. Fast forward to the trending present, and studies show that the ‘transition into adulthood’ has been delayed to at least the age of thirty, which is a huge leap. The millennial generation rarely buys houses or cars. The education system, social interactions and less pressure on the adolescents and young adults have elongated this ‘transition’ period.

Source: Phil Robles (phillustrate.com)

Is there an indicator of when a person has become an adult?

Biologically, an adult is a human being that has reached sexual maturity. In India, legally, an individual is said to reach adulthood at the age of eighteen. Different countries have different legal ages, but clearly, eighteen barely qualifies as the age when the youth phases into adulthood. Even taking into consideration the age when one gains sexual maturity, the ages between fourteen and eighteen, and this does not give a definitive age of when one becomes an adult. Social responsibility and behaviour define the adult, and maturity, decision making processes and stability in social, mental and physical aspects are to be considered. Factoring all this in, there is a huge transition period between the adolescent stage, the young adult stage and full fledged adulthood.  Jeffrey Arnett proposed an ‘emergent adulthood’ stage, where there is no role played by the individual in the society, but he/she is just trying out various roles and discovering themselves, and this spans between late teens and early thirties. Many rituals around the world signify the onset of adulthood, but is the youth delaying adulthood as such?

Why the education system may be contributing to delayed adulthood

The present education system asks students to learn through their young adulthood. An individual who opts to pursue higher education must learn through their entire transition phase. This learning requires a childlike attention in class and the need to constantly update one’s identity. Since they’re within a structured and protected environment, they aren’t exposed to circumstances like job insecurity and responsibilities beyond those related to education. Universities and colleges provide extensive social networks and this leads to discovery of one’s true standing within these networks, but as soon as the course is done, the individual is pulled out from this environment and thrown into one with no standing and must build their networks again. This sets the pace behind, making the individual question their identity.

Classroom teaching is also a major flaw in the education system. The student’s perception is mostly stunted due to the monotone thought process of professors or the rarely updated syllabi for courses. Classrooms decrease the ability of the student to think for himself and this is what produces the sub-par graduates.

Modern day relationships- truly make or break

With a lot of networking in school and colleges, relationships today are based on spot judgements and months worth of company. It isn’t everlasting in most of the cases, be it of romantic nature or not. Romantic relationships tend to suffer more due to this, because both the individuals are yet to discover themselves, and hence the relationship ends. Due to the delayed transition intro adulthood, people in their twenties most often don’t think about marriage and accepting responsibilities of adulthood or rather don’t want to. This leads to the individual drifting from one relationship to another, eventually hoping to discover themselves and to find a meaning in having a relationship. Theoretically, with no responsibility and parent’s financial backing has put the young adult into a continuum of unabashed ‘youthfulness’.

Is becoming an adult later in life a good thing?

On an average, by thirty, individuals bloom into adults. But this delayed transition has led to an increase in reckless activity, according to some research. Increased cases of drunk driving, drug abuse, rape and crimes ranging from battery to theft maybe due to the fact that the accused don’t think they’re responsible enough. This claim is refuted by many researchers, who claim that the youth accepts social responsibility later, but there isn’t a correlation between the “stretching transition” and substance use, violent death, and arrests. On the flip side, a more childlike view of the world with increased attention maybe good for learning through the so called “transition phase”. The fact that we have shifted from a ‘raise family’ mind-set to a ‘find yourself’ one has contributed a lot to this delay. While it is always good to take time to discover yourself, you shouldn’t be in an eternal quest and spend your whole life in an illusionary youth. This leads to no purpose being fulfilled.

So, go on and discover yourself, but don’t spend your whole life figuring out who you are. At the finish line, you’ll have a question with no time to answer it.


Read more here: The Guardian, New York Times, Forbes, Sarah R. Hayford and Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr.


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