We’re in the thick of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. A Canadian study reported that a typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early ’70s.
The writer, Robin Marantz Henig, attacks the problem in terms of economics and institutions (jobs, degrees, families) which leads her to the conclusion that young adults are "emerging adults" who are delaying adulthood—which doesn't quite make the nut.
A quick look at the cultural dimensions show that the young adults Henig writes about are doing something more extreme: they're fetishizing childhood. Gourmet ice cream and cupcakes, corn dogs and elephant ears on barroom menus, dodge ball and kickball, the baseball caps and striped socks and poofy parkas in primary colors that are adult versions of their elementary-school wardrobes—this is not just retardation, it's return. Regressing.
I don't know whether the cultural fetishization of childhood is a symptom or a cause—or part of some positive feedback loop in between—of this refusal to pass the "milestones" of adulthood like starting families and paying your own bills. Whatever's going on, the Regressors now have their own in-patient psychiatric facility:
Yellowbrick is a private, physician-owned and -operated psychiatric healthcare organization whose mission is to provide a full-spectrum, specialized approach to the emotional, psychological and developmental challenges of emerging adults.
The Residence offers a developmental platform for those emerging adults who cannot move forward living at home, on campus, or in an independent apartment. The program offers 24/7 skilled support and membership in the Yellowbrick community. The Residence provides a supportive adult presence which respects demonstrated effective autonomy, individualized programming for further development of life strategy skills, career and education services and productive activity in the Evanston community.
Which isn't to say that people who play kickball need psychiatric treatment. (Though it's tempting to throw that bomb.)
But there is—there has to be—a relationship between a culture that fetishizes the totems, foods, and activities of childhood and a crop of adults who can't or won't be adults.
And I realize this whole thing makes me sound like a prematurely old man who's gunning for Andy Rooney's job. Which is true. I'm a reverse-Regressor, getting old and cranky before my time. So sue me.