Could Your Child Kill?

Image Credit: GlobalGrind

Image Credit: GlobalGrind

I’m currently taking a course focused on criminological theory and as I’ve been thinking through the theories, I’ve tried to better understand all of the things that can go wrong in a person that causes him/her to take the life of another. More specifically, how can this happen in the case of a child? Read More →

Adultlescence: A New Phase of Life

Adultlescence is a relatively new word. To some, it is defined as a period of life in which many young people seem stuck. Rather than behaving like proper grown-ups, getting jobs, and having children, these “adultlescents” have moved back in with their parents, are still addicted to video games, and show few or no signs of taking up the responsibilities of home and career.

Others, however, are looking at adultlescence in a slightly different light. Adultlescence, under this viewpoint, is not some sort of social malaise or disorder, but rather a new phase of human development, brought about by an uncertain economy and/or the reality of drastic increases in human life expectancy over the past hundred years or so.

The latter view of adultlescence gains some credence when compared to other phases of human development. Childhood as we think of it, for example, did not exist prior to the 18th century. At that earlier point in human history, children were seen not as children but as “little adults.” The clothes they wore were simply smaller versions of adult clothing, the toy industry did not exist, and most children were expected to pitch in and begin working to support the family as soon as they were able. They were not to be coddled or indulged. Today, however, there are child labor laws, and the idea of a child being required to do backbreaking labor in a field all day in the hot sun is practically unthinkable. This implies that there is no “proper” age for any particular stage of development and that it is, rather, a construct based on the values and beliefs of any given time and society.

Looking at emerging adultlescence as a function of humanity’s increased lifespan also benefits from examination of past trends. For example, as late as the early 20th century, average life expectancy from birth was as low as 31 years of age. The present average life expectancy is currently more than double that. Granted, a large portion of the increase can be attributed to the reduction in infant mortality brought about by modern medical advances. However, people are not only living longer, but more people are living longer. Many people are also working much longer. This leads to increased competition for jobs and resources, as well as a perception that working life may be much longer for young people now than it was for their parents or grandparents. Since adulthood ends later than it used to, it naturally follows that it can now begin later, too.

This ties directly into the economic perspective on adultlescence. Few children would relish the thought of living beneath their parents’ roof indefinitely.  Returning to the nest, so to speak, is as likely to be a result of economic pressure as desire. This would suggest there is a case to be made for adultlescence as a malaise of society—if it can be seen as a malaise at all—rather than as a malaise of a generation.

Whatever the underlying forces behind its creation, adultlescence is growing as a sociological term and as a phase of human development in its own right. Whether or not it grows out of it and into something different, or simply passes away entirely is something only time will tell.