Two views on whether 30 is the new 21

Today on the Brian Lehrer Show developmental psychologist Jeffrey Arnett stopped by to talk about the phenomenon of emerging adulthood. Arnett is the real deal: His research has fueled the study of emerging adulthood and he also tirelessly advocates for a sympathetic regard for millennials and for the expansion of institutional resources to support them during their transition to full adulthood.

His interview with guest host Mike Pesca brings up a lot of good points about the particularities of this life stage, including how we cannot hang every aspect of emerging adulthood on brain development, but must also consider life circumstances of young adults today. The spot also shines a light on the particular experiences of twenty-somethings from poor or immigrant families, where young adult children often shoulder more responsibilities than their peers.

[audio ]

Compare that to the TED talk given by clinical psychologist Meg Jay, who argues that 30 is not the new 20. While Arnett seeks to understand the motivation and reasons behind a phenomenon he believes is unfairly billed as an “extended adolescence,” Jay’s objective is to get her twenty-something clients on a positive path by urging them to follow four pieces of advice that she hopes will ameliorate her clients’ experience of quarter-life crisis.

  1. Build up your identity capital.
  2. Use your twenties for serious career exploration.
  3. Use those weak ties to make new connections.
  4. Pick your partners and family intentionally.

I actually think that the two views are not diametrically opposed. Both Arnett and Jay recognize that emerging adults need special support and guidance on their way toward committed adult lives and identities.

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