Is Gen Z resistant to growing up? A leading developmental psychologist and an expert in the college student experience debunk this stereotype and explain how we can better support young adults as they make the transition from adolescence to the rest of their lives.
Experts and the general public are convinced that young people today are trapped in an extended adolescence—coddled, unaccountable, and more reluctant to take on adult responsibilities than previous generations. Nancy Hill and Alexis Redding argue that what is perceived as stalled development is in fact typical. Those reprimanding today’s youth have forgotten that they once balked at the transition to adulthood themselves.
From an abandoned archive of recordings of college students from half a century ago, Hill and Redding discovered that there is nothing new about feeling insecure, questioning identities, and struggling to find purpose. Like many of today’s young adults, those of two generations ago also felt isolated and anxious that the path to success felt fearfully narrow. This earlier cohort, too, worried about whether they could make it on their own.
Yet, among today’s young adults, these developmentally appropriate struggles are seen as evidence of immaturity. If society adopts this jaundiced perspective, it will fail in its mission to prepare young adults for citizenship, family life, and work. Instead, Hill and Redding offer an alternative view of delaying adulthood and identify the benefits of taking additional time to construct a meaningful future. When adults set aside judgment, there is a lot they can do to ensure that young adults get the same developmental chances they had.