childhood, family

Perpetual Adolescence

I wrote a paper for Human Growth and Development close to two years ago now, and it came immediately to mind when the latest example of childishness  popped up on the internet. Larry Correia delivers a brilliant fisking of the article. I really should expand on this paper, I didn’t even touch on the neural development, and how our lifestyle affects brain growth.

Arrested Development: The perpetual adolescence of the American culture


In no other country in the world can adults get away with being children as long as they can in America. Here in the land of plenty, where even the poor have televisions, smart phones, and often, their own car, there is no drive to work hard. In this culture where it’s easy to live with parents until you are in your thirties, the median age for marriages keeps going up, along with the age of having a child, why settle down and have a family? Where apathy and temper tantrums characterize the interactions of the people with one another, institutions, and their government, why bother involving oneself with a reasoned, balanced political viewpoint?

The textbook comments on adolescence, “today, adolescence tends to begin earlier biologically and end later sociologically than it once did.” (Berger, 2008, 361) The characteristics once singular to the adolescent are now much more visible in what was once considered adulthood. From the physical, like body image, diet and sexual appetites, to the development of the brain in ways that encourage risky behavior, to the societal influences, the American teen is encouraged to never grow up.

Adulthood is defined by Psychology Today as:

• educational and occupational achievement.


• health and healthy behaviors; taking care of one’s self.

• maturity.

• an absence of problems.

• having good friends.

• finding a love partner.

• mental health, not being depressed or anxious, not drinking too much.

• staying youthful.

• knowing who you are-figuring out your identity.

• disconnecting from/remaining connected to your parents/loving your parents in a different way.

• being responsible.

• doing what you want to do.

So what happens when adulthood is no longer a goal? Joseph Epstein, writing for the Weekly Standard, summed it up neatly. “When I say youth culture, I do not mean merely that the young today are transcendent, the group most admired among the various age groups in American society, but that youth is no longer viewed as a transitory state, through which one passes on the way from childhood to adulthood, but an aspiration, a vaunted condition in which, if one can only arrange it, to settle in perpetuity.”  (Epstein, 2009, 1)

The pursuit of adolescence shows up in Hollywood, with a seemingly never-ending procession of movies about overgrown boys stumbling through their lives. Recent titles such as 40 Year-Old Virgin, Something about Mary, and any Adam Sandler movie ever made, illustrate this point. Madison Avenue gets into the act as well, with an increase in stereotypical macho men ads that appeal to men on a baser level (McCarthy, n.d., 1)

Bombarded with all this, the so-called boomerang generation (Parker, 2012,1) find themselves still living with their parents, or moving back after a short time. In an article in the Business Insider, one young person interviewed anonymously had this to say: “when my parents were my age, they had already moved to the US on their own, were married and had a child. I’m still living like I was when I was in high school except instead of school it’s a job and I have more money to spend. They were adults at my age and I’m still living like a teenager.”

Barbara Kay sums it all up neatly, “Maturity as a general virtue, however, declined in the Sixties when indiscriminate sexual liberty, detached from responsibility and emotional engagement, became a human right from puberty forward. With no need to defer the gratification of appetite, there was no further need for patience, maturity’s hallmark.” (Kay, 2009, 1) In our modern whirl, this loss of patience, of maturity, indicates an arrested development of Americans that will affect our culture on the deepest levels, and not in a good way.


Works Cited

McCarthy, Michael (n.d). Degree’s macho men ads hit target. USA Today.


Epstein, Joseph, Weekly Standard, 2009.


Kay, Barbara, Grow Up, Will You?, Mercator Net, 2009.


Stanger, Melissa, Business Insider, 2012.


Tanner, Jennifer, Psychology Today, Becoming Adult, 2010.


Parker, Kim, Pew Social Trends, The Boomerang Generation, 2012.


Berger, Kathleen, The Developing Person, 2008.