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Delayed Adulthood

Young adults and teens have been facing hardships with growing up much more than any other generation. Often, the blame has fallen on them for being lazy, less motivated, or just not as successful when they graduate as they had hoped, but in the end, the real problem is simply delayed adulthood, which they really cannot control.

Each successive generation since 1970 has struggled to be financially independent, graduate on time or at all, and marry and settle down with a family. An article from the Sunday Review of the New York Times reported that 25 year olds are twice as likely to still be students compared to when their parents were at their age. Now, delayed adulthood may seem like it carries a lot of negativity with it, but there is an argument to make for how delayed adulthood might be benefitting these young adults more than harming them.

Adolescence is a time when your brain is the most influenced by experience due to the “plastic” or flexible nature of the brain during this time. A lot can be learned during the adolescent years, both through opportunity and vulnerability that can help shape a young adults vision and understanding of the world around them. The case of delayed adulthood is beneficial in this way because dragging out the plasticity of the brain into your young adult years is keeping your brain actively working, in turn making you into a smarter person.

There has been a noticeable change in neurochemical shifts at the end of adolescence and going into someone’s 20s. These changes make our brain less plastic and less sensitive to environmental influences. This means that we are not retaining as much information because our brains are becoming harder. It is still undetermined if this neurochemical change is brought on by less stimuli going into our 20s or if this is a biological phenomenon that is inevitable.

If it is possibly tied to the stimuli and activity that we engage our brains in, it is possible to open our window of brain plasticity for a longer period of time before fixing itself on adulthood. It may seem like the latest generation is harming themselves with their adulthood delays, but some mindful consideration should be given for the positivity that may also be blooming. 


Based on the NYT article "The Case for Delayed Adulthood."


--Jessalyn Kieta

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