All children, except Millennials, grow up
To a child, the world seems full of possibilities and never-ending adventures. Then the time comes to transition into adulthood. Becoming an adult demands a certain level of independence, which can often mean working tiresome hours and following a tedious daily routine of all work and no play. “All children, except one, grow up,” wrote Sir James Matthew Barrie in his classic tale of the fictional character Peter Pan, an eternally young boy who embarks on endless adventures and ultimately refuses to grow up.
In current times, however, it seems that Peter Pan is no longer the exception, as Millennials are often branded the “Peter Pan generation” due to a reluctance to “grow up.”
“To some, Peter Pan represents a belligerent stance on growing up, and this label was applied to Millennials in reference to living with their parents for longer periods of time than prior generations,” says Joan Snyder, a trained speaker and expert on career and college preparation for Millennials.
“It is the mindset regarding life and work that has linked the Peter Pan label to Millennials,” she says. “This generation has a passion for endless opportunity, and strives to connect their ambitions for adventures in life to their ideal career.”
The idea that Millennials sustain a childlike mentality is no fault of their own, according to Laura Guild, a psychology professor at Santa Monica College. Guild believes that parents are partly responsible for their children’s delayed onset of adulthood.
“It has been suggested that it is the mindset of growing up as their parents did that this generation is rejecting, rather than growing up itself,” says Guild.
According to Guild, parents of Millennials are predominately from the Baby Boomer generation, which initiated a significant change in parenting style.
“It was more child-centered and focused on the emotional adjustment of the child, rather than education and financial independence,” she says.
Guild claims that these parents and their children often have closer relationships than the generations before them. Some parents, who continually support their children well into adulthood, are known as “perma-parents.”
“They have difficulty letting their children grow up and take responsibility for themselves,” says Guild. “Some parents of this generation fostered expectations in their children of entitlement without having to work hard for goals, narcissism, and rejection of social convention.”
Millennials are also associated with Peter Pan because of delays in their transition to adulthood, which has traditionally included career, marriage, and family.
“Fifty years ago, someone was considered an adult by the age of 20,” says Guild. “That meant they were married or engaged, finished with their education, and close to starting a family.”
Recent 2012 studies, conducted by the Pew Research Center, indicate that the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by five percent between 2009 and 2010. In 1960, 72 percent of adults 18 and older were married, whereas in 2011, only 51 percent were.
“The age of adulthood has been getting steadily later ever since,” explains Guild. “People are waiting to finish their education, get married, and have children until their late twenties on average.”
A January article posted by Forbes Magazine states that the U.S. Census Bureau found an increase in Millennial women aged 20 to 34 who have never been married. This, however, does not mean that they do not sustain relationships and start families.
Fifty-nine percent of these women feel that simply “living together is a legitimate lifestyle,” even if they have children, which indicates that marriage has become less of a priority for this generation.
According to the same Forbes article, most young adults say that the sluggish economy has prolonged the coming-of-age decisions regarding school, marriage, parenthood, and careers.
Guild also attributes economic turmoil as a primary factor responsible for the Millennial generation’s reluctance to grow up.
“Due to the current economic situation, 85 percent of kids who graduate from college end up having to move back home with their parents,” says Guild. “This prolongs a period of financial and emotional dependence.”
The Pew study indicated that 53 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds still live with their parents, or had to temporarily move back in recent years. Seventy-eight percent of these young adults say that they do not have enough money to carry out the life they had planned.
Snyder believes Millennials are simply misunderstood, and negatively criticized for their alternative views on life.
“I think that most articles you read today about Millennials are negative, and place blame on their determination for flexible work conditions and constant feedback,” Snyder says.
In her opinion, the generation cannot be faulted for desiring the fairy tale of endless adventures. Snyder claims that Millennials are the key to unlocking advancements in science, technology, healthcare, and social engagement, and that they will dominate the global workforce by the year 2020.
“My stance is that the organizations of the future are the ones who need to adapt the Millennial mindset,” Snyder says.