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Adult Children Who Won’t GROW UP. Not a trend, fad or generational “hiccup”. Characterized by putting off adult responsibilities; Is it a laziness, or is it the fruits of affluence, or are larger economic forces to blame?

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Not a trend fad or generational hiccup l.jpg
Not a trend, fad or generational “hiccup”

  • Characterized by putting off adult responsibilities;

  • Is it a laziness, or is it the fruits of affluence, or are larger economic forces to blame?

  • Years 18-25+ have become a new transitional never-never land between adolescence & adulthood;

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“When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us” Jane Adams, 2003

  • The kids are all right and other lies parents tell;

  • Waiting for the kids to grow up before parents can get settled;

  • Parents who give too much;

  • Too much of a good thing.

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Wall Street Journal, 1/6/05

  • “The Coddling Crisis: Why Americans Think Adulthood Begins at Age 26”

  • Stunted independence;

  • Long distance handholding;

  • Higher expectations of bosses to act parental.

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Usual Markers of Adulthood

  • Career choice selected by end of HS;

  • Completion of an education to prep for that career;

  • Entry into job market, building up job and salary history;

  • Financial independence from parents is longed for and achieved.

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Usual Markers of Adulthood(continued)

  • Emotional maturity and satisfying love/friendship relationships;

  • Legal marriage, childbirth, home ownership or if still with parents, pays an appropriate R&B;

  • Citizen—pay taxes, vote in elections, responsibly upholding laws, uses self to serve community (volunteer, etc.)

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Kinds of problems facing families with ACWWGU

  • Child cant/wont leave home or is paralyzed by indecision;

  • Child has problems getting/holding ANY job;

  • Child has a job with NO FUTURE;

  • Child won’t accept entry level position for career choice;

  • Child will only work part-time.

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More Problems

  • Child is chronically depressed and/or abuses alcohol/drugs;

  • Child has escalating debts, financial crises, require parental “bail-outs;”

  • Child has eating disorder, bi-polar disorder or some condition that requires therapy/supervision;

  • Child lives outside the law (deals drugs, gets DWI’s, etc.)

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Still More Problems

  • Can’t get along with others (family, job, friends, etc.)

  • Cannot tolerate frustration with systems and delegates parents to do it (Motor Vehicles, credit cards, college debts, job application procedures, etc.)

  • Emotionally immature expectations of life, job, boss. Has a sense of entitlement

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Time Magazine 1/24/05

  • Cover Story: “Grow Up? Not So Fast”

  • Previously called the problem “Generation X” or “slackers;”

  • New term: “Twixters”??

  • Not just an American phenomenon;

  • Boomerang kids; Kippers; Tanguy syndrome, Nesthocker, Mammone, Freeter—all terms for the same condition.

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The Effects on Parents

  • Delayed attainment of financial security (kids not set yet);

  • Ambivalence about feasibility of retirement (when, where, etc.)

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The Effects on Parents (continued)

  • Husband/wife may staunchly disagree on nature, cause, solution to the problem;

  • Destructive parental blame & punishment cycles;

  • Increasingly long road of parenting.

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Research on Twixters ( by SRBI Public Affairs 11/14/04, N=601, ages 18-29)


22% Having 1st child

22% Moving out of parental home

19% Getting good job with benefits

14% Getting married

10% Finishing school

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MORE RESEARCH N=601, ages 18-29)


35% “Just enjoying life the way it is”

33% “Not financially yet independent ”

13% “Not out of school yet”

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Still More Research N=601, ages 18-29)


Eating Out 32%

Clothes 26%

Going to/renting movies 17%

Computers/software 12%

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Seeking a “Safe Haven” in the Family N=601, ages 18-29)

  • 70% report spending time with family in previous week;

  • 48% communicate daily with parents by phone or email;

  • 39% say parents have great deal of influence over their lives;

  • 26% say parents were TOO protective of them while growing up.

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CULTURAL INFLUENCES N=601, ages 18-29)

  • Family dynamics affected by 55% divorce rate; 2 working parents; high degree mobility;

  • High cost of living;

  • Latchkey children;

  • Delayed marriage & parenthood.

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  • Teaching toward testing without develop. critical thinking skills;

  • Education geared toward college entrance without regard to purpose

  • Education without basic communication skills.

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  • Less contact with families of origin and the extended family;

  • More permissive attitude/fewer limits on outside activities (hurried & overscheduled);

  • More encourage of “self-expression.”

Little if any mentoring

by fathers or uncles or

other significant adults.

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CHILD DEVELOPMENT N=601, ages 18-29)

  • Developmental stages are incremental with specific challenges to be mastered for optimal function;

  • Separation/individuation crisis—development of a self;

  • Development of empathy;

  • Parallel process for parenting—parent is transformed by changing needs of child.

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What is a “good enough” parent? N=601, ages 18-29)

  • Parents who know how to both gratify and frustrate their child so that the child develops a connection and a confidence in their ability to become independent;

  • The parent who is not perfect but tries their best with the resources they have;

  • The parent who knows his/her limitations and can seek help when needed.

  • Mutually respectful with the child, accepts his/her dependency/vulnerability and does not violate that sense of trust.

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Early Adolescence (12-15)

  • Preoccupation with radical physical changes;

  • Peers exert greater influence;

  • First solo forays outside the family.

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Late adolescence (16-19)

  • Greater freedom from parental dominance;

  • Milestone achievements (driver license.)

  • Graduation from HS, first job;

  • College admission/graduation;

  • Peer influence predominates.

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  • Central question is: Who am I and Who will I be?

  • Common distractions: play station, x-box, game cube; cell phones;

  • Computer: games, instant messaging, internet, chat rooms;

  • Tattooing, piercing, etc.

  • Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex;

  • Participation in criminal activity, vandalism, petty theft, etc.

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  • Three processes need to be initiated:

  • Inner Direction and self awareness;

  • Foresight—Look where you are headed, set goals, move toward the future;

  • Self-launching—motivation, inspiration, optimism and ignition.

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HOW CAN A PARENT HELP? N=601, ages 18-29)

  • Help your kids figure out who they are by starting this process when they are 11 or 12. Periodically review their emerging strengths & weaknesses & work on shortcomings. Identify the kinds of interests they keep coming back to—the key to possible careers.

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Parental Help N=601, ages 18-29)

  • Talk about the future on a regular basis.

  • Talk to your child about life (yours and theirs) post-college.

  • Discuss the plus/minus of your own career.

  • Look for role models for your kids to talk to as opposed to members of their clique, or vague celebrity role models.

  • Have regular discussions about individuals in the family or other people that they respect and ask them how they got where they are!

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PARENTAL HELP N=601, ages 18-29)

  • Build your child’s work skills by giving them responsibilities around the house and making sure that they follow through. Require/insist on teens to take a part-time job.

  • Get them to earn special privileges/ benefits not just from the extra cash, but from the positive regard they development with supervisors, coworkers, etc.

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PARENTAL HELP N=601, ages 18-29)

  • Place time limits on leisure activities. Reduce passivity by reducing the amount of time your child spends on the computer, video games, x-box, etc. Do not let your child stay inside their inner bubble. Encourage your child to take up outside interests that encourage communication with people and worthwhile causes.

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PARENTAL HELP N=601, ages 18-29)

  • Help kids develop coping strategies so they know how to deal with setbacks & feelings of inadequacy. (See handout on Six Steps to problem solving).

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PARENTAL HELP N=601, ages 18-29)

  • Make sure that childhood is not an impossible act to follow. Don’t overindulge kids with spectacular vacations, opulent possessions & excessive extracurricular. Avoid creating hyper inflated egos that will puncture when they attempt to leave the family nest.

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PARENTAL HELP, FINALLY N=601, ages 18-29)

  • For the parents of the young adult: Display interest but do not take over the reins; career advice should be offered respectfully & parents should never make it seem there are easy answers; offer room/board and/or occasional gifts/grants but do not bankroll their adult start-up. (From: “Ready or Not, Here Life Comes”, by Dr. Mel Levine)