Saturday, May 11, 2013

National Survey of Parents of Emerging Adults

Jeff Arnett and his collaborators have followed up their survey of emerging adults, which was released earlier this year, with a new poll of parents of emerging adults. Release of the poll coincides with publication of Arnett's new book, When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?

USA Today ran an article last week on the new poll of parents, focusing on how positively most parents report their relationships with their emerging-adult children to be. I was one of the emerging-adulthood researchers interviewed for the article. In addition to the "helicopter parent" aspect about which I was quoted, another area that interested me is how parents view the elongated path to adulthood characteristic of recent generations. According to the article:

When asked about the general trend of young people taking longer to reach adulthood, the parents are less positive than they are about their own kids: 44% say it is both positive and negative, 43% say it is negative, and 13% say it is positive.

I'm not surprised to learn that a large proportion of parents (44%) see the delayed transition to adulthood as a mixed bag. I am surprised, however, that unmitigated negative views are so much more common than purely positive ones. One reason for my surprise is that, to some extent, some parents may be encouraging their children to go slow when it comes to certain adult transitions, making it seem contradictory for them also to frown upon it.

In their 2011 book, Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker cite parental discouragement of their children marrying early as one reason, among others, for the latter's delayed entry into marriage (pp 188-189). Other research shows that increasing percentages of parents over the years have endorsed the view that a college education is "very important." Presumably these parents are encouraging their children to seek advanced learning, which also tends to delay marriage and childbearing.

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