Why didn't I grow up?

A psychologist says: You have to achieve these 3 goals in order to grow up

When psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett first started his research, he asked hundreds of people a simple question: "Do you feel like you are an adult?"

As he was in his 30s, he expected people to talk about what psychologists call "role shifting" and spearhead an upcoming wedding, house purchase, or successful career.

Instead, the 18- to 29-year-old participants provided him with things that made them feel like adults and things that they didn't. This led him to coined the term “emerging adulthood”. This describes the eventful time that marks growing up.

Particularly interesting: All participants - regardless of race, origin or nationality - mentioned points that Arnett describes as the big three: taking responsibility, making their own decisions and becoming financially independent.

For us he explained the big three in more detail.

1. Take responsibility for yourself

"People have mentioned all sorts of things they mean," said Arnett. "In general, however, it means accepting the consequences of one's actions without anyone protecting you, especially not your parents."

An example: You bought a junk car and it no longer works properly. So it turns out that was a really bad idea. Bearing the consequences of such a decision yourself is something that people around the world would call a responsibility. Something that goes with growing up.

If something breaks, you have to fix it - without blaming anyone else.

2. Make your own decisions

The second threshold of growing up is all about identity.

  • Which educational path should I take?
  • Which job offers should I consider?
  • Where should i live
  • Who should i live with
  • Do I want a relationship or do I want to be independent?
  • Should I move in with my partner?
  • Should i break up?
  • Should I move to New York and try acting?

"It's about finding out how you fit into this world," says Arnett, "and there are numerous decisions that play a role."

It is a search for one's own identity, he says, and it is one that is also highly individual.

The key here is patience. Young people often put a lot of pressure on themselves to resolve these identity issues. Often it also comes from the parents. But at some point everyone comes up with the right answer for themselves.

“Everyone finds out when they are around 30,” explains the psychologist. “The closer you get to 30, the more likely it is to be able to answer these questions and find your place in life. It's not that you can magically answer these questions just because you're older, but you find out what to do, where to live, or if you want a partner. People are so fixated on these things that they will find the answers. Since people at 30 are usually looking for stability, they will find it. "

3. Financial independence

The third hurdle in growing up is the easiest to check: Pay your own way.

Financial independence is "very important, especially in American society," says Arnett. "Americans expect their children to be independent, and young adults feel the pressure their parents put on them."

Arnett says budding adults are constantly striving for financial independence and would rather live frugally alone than comfortably with the help of their parents. But they still need help from time to time to pay for an expensive repair, fly home during the holidays, or pay the rent.

He thinks it makes sense to stop supporting a 25-year-old financially if he is not taking any steps towards financial independence.

But here, too, patience is the key.

“Being able to rely on one another is what families do and have always done,” he adds.