“Mom, I’m home!”
College students may consider adulthood a relative concept, but many believe moving back in with parents does not provide a free pass to slackerdom.
The new concept of “emerging adulthood” classifies people ages 18-29 as two generations that have not yet reached adult stability. The idea reflects the 8.2% unemployment rate and an average student loan debt of $25,000 that especially hinders Generation X and Millennials.
Katy Erstine, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Alabama, said many people consider graduating college key to reaching adulthood because it enables careers. However, the struggling economy has forced the jobless to redefine their expectations of their new life chapter after commencement.
With half of 2012’s new alumni underemployed or jobless, and a Pew Research survey suggesting 24% of those 18-34 have moved in with their parents within the past few years, a graduate cannot necessarily depend on a career to shape his or her adult identity.
University students and a professional said personal growth can suffice in lieu of a meaningful job.
“I think that adulthood is marked by responsibility and the ability of a person to make their own decisions about the way they choose to live their life,” Erstine said.
Grouping the ages 18-25 better fits the term “emerging adults” because it’s a more accurate age range of those who are finishing school and figuring out their role in society, Erstine said. Economic conditions have removed the stigma associated with new grads moving in with their parents, she said.
Erstine said accountability and independent decisions are the hallmarks of adulthood.
Marc Cabe, an 18-year-old Loyola University Chicago freshman, said moving back in with parents demands more responsibility than when the individual embarked off to college.
“If you’re trying to be an adult, it’s OK as long as you’re not ripping off your parents,” Cabe said.
Navigating a rough patch from the comfort of home is acceptable if the college graduate holds any job and saves money, Cabe said. A selfless perspective is key to maturity and becoming a productive member of society, he said.
“You realize the sacrifices your parents went through, and you take it as your responsibility to pay them back and help others,” Cabe said.
Brian Peters, 27, of Raleigh, N.C., said he has a career in education. Personal milestones nudge people toward adulthood, he said.
“Major life events transition our thinking to identifying as adults,” Peters said. “Either through graduation or having a child, each of us individually changes our perceptions of ourselves as adults.”
Peters said even the federal government cannot pinpoint the onset of adulthood considering 18 is the legal age, but people can use their parents’ health insurance until 26.
Those sharing a roof with their parents should keep applying to jobs, work part-time and contribute money to bills to be more responsible, he said.
Cabe said he and others may resist the challenges adulthood brings, but the evolution is inevitable.
“I may not want to, but it’s something that has to happen,” Cabe said.
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