Young People: More/Less Mature Than They Used to Be?

It began as a question in the Praxis team Slack, spilled over to Facebook, and generated a fascinating stream of comments and counter-comments.

“Claim: people take longer than they used to to become independent adults.  True?”

I’m fascinated by generational shifts.

I’m also skeptical of any claim that smacks of, “Things used to be better”, because nearly all of those claims fall apart upon examination (wealth is greater, crime is lower, lifespan is longer, wars are fewer, etc.), and because every generation for all of history has believed the next generation to be degenerate.

Still, progress is not inevitable, nor is it uniform.  Some things that once required great struggle come easy today (navigating a new city), some that used to be easy require struggle now (getting enough exercise).

The Facebook comments, predictably, leaned heavily toward the conclusion that people are taking longer than ever to “grow up”.  They are more child-like and dependent for longer than they used to be.  I’m inclined to believe this is only true in some areas, and the opposite is true in others.

For now, here’s my hypothesis: individuals today develop independence at a younger age than previous generations in thought, communication, values, meaning, belief, identity, and goals.  They develop independence at an older age than previous generations in work/finance, ability to handle hardship or monotony, ability to create structure, and ability to be alone.

These things probably relate to and feed each other.  For example, less ability to handle loneliness and monotony without the help of others means you’re more likely to search for a career that’s not lonely or monotonous vs. settle for the path laid before you.

I’ve got a lot more thinking and observing to do.  I’m an individualist, so I don’t see any determinism in generational traits, but shared experience is real and generations definitely have common characteristics worth comparing.

Over on Steemit, a new platform I’m playing with, I assume the claim that young people take longer to mature is true, then offer possible causes.  Check out the post and comments here.  Hint: it’s about schooling and technology.

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