The New Generation
The behavior of this generation has spawned a number of recent books, including Diana West's "The Death of the Grown-Up," Jean Twenge's "Generation Me," and such academic studies as "Emerging Adults in America," edited by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett and Jennifer Lynn Tanner. For a better understanding of this cohort, of which I happen to be a part, I turned to Robert Wuthnow, a Princeton sociologist and the author of a new book called "After the Boomers." Surrounded by college students, and the father of three children who are now ages 35, 33 and 27, Prof. Wuthnow, a kind-looking gentleman with a full head of white hair, has long been fascinated by the demographic differences between young adults today and his own generation.
Here are the crucial ones he identifies: When compared with their parents and grandparents, 20- and 30-somethings are spending more time in school, remaining financially dependent on their parents longer, marrying later in life, having kids later (and have fewer of them), and changing jobs and locations more often. As Prof. Wuthnow sees it, this extended adolescence or "emerging adulthood" (a phrase coined by Prof. Arnett in a 2000 article in American Psychologist) is largely a product of longer life expectancies and has both upsides and downsides.
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