Remember when you left home to start your adult life? Mom cried, while Dad helped you pack and asked you to hold the tape measure as he began the process of turning your room into his new man cave. For most of us, this fateful moment happened shortly after our 18th birthday. Some went off to college, while others got their first apartments or entered into a shared living arrangement with a half a dozen or so roommates. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t wait to be out on my own, and I think my parents shared my enthusiasm for embracing my independence—I never would have thought that a pool table would fit in my boyhood bedroom. Unfortunately, according to new guidelines for child psychologists in the UK, in showing us the door at 18 our parents deprived us of seven (7) more years of adolescence. In other words, for today’s “kids”, 25 is the new 18.
Apparently, scientists have found that the average human brain continues to develop into one’s mid-20’s, so little Johnny probably shouldn’t be let out on his own after dark until he’s halfway to his first prostate exam. Naturally, the average British child psychologist is thrilled at this news as their potential clientele now includes 23-year-old boys and girls who think mommy and daddy just don’t understand them. I’m not so sure that the average parent shares this level of enthusiasm. While the spectrum on the statute of limitations on parental support may be fairly broad—my marketing guy once told me that his dad looked at him across the dinner table when he was ten and told him he needed to get a job because he couldn’t support him forever—I think we can all agree that 25 is a little too old to still be obsessed by things like who is going to ask who to the prom. To put this whole thing into perspective, Alexander the Great assumed the throne at 20 and by the time he was 22 he had conquered all of Asia Minor. Just imagine what he might have accomplished if he didn’t have a curfew.
According to these new guidelines, there are now three stages of adolescence: ages 12-14 comprise the “young” stage, 15-17 logically makes up the middle phase, and 18-25—the period formally referred to as young adulthood—is now defined as the late adolescent period. Maybe it’s just me, but I think these new categories are going to be problematic for a great number of us. For example, if Junior gets his own place at 19 does this mean you’re a bad parent or is he “just mature for his age”. Restaurants everywhere will now be faced with having to determine a new standard cut-off age for the “kid’s menu”, and if your kid takes a day off from work will he have to provide a note from his mother? Naturally, you’re also going to have to be a little more careful when your kid wants to have a sleepover. Obviously, these issues are just the tip of the iceberg.
Like any new paradigm this new discovery of “delayed adolescence” does have an upside. Parents who just doled out $100K or more on a college education can now refer their 22 year old’s job at McDonald’s as an “entry level position with a large multi-national corporation”. So what if your husband says that Junior is bum; you can sleep at night safe in the knowledge that he’s just “going through a phase”. And, on top of that, “mommy’s little helper” can now reach those hard to dust places around the home.
Like many of you, I am a parent myself. Since my kids are on the cusp of entering the “young adolescence” stage of development, Mrs. Crosby and I will be faced with the question of whether to embrace the traditional guidelines of child development or this new extended definition of childhood. While I can’t speak for the Mrs., if I told you that I already know that a pool table will fit in my son’s room, I think you know my thoughts on the subject.